I used to think that the importance of ethnicity was vastly overblown in American society. What’s the point of being proud of the achievements of your ancestors? You had nothing to do with it. And why go to extra lengths to place yourself in a community of people bound by nothing stronger than genetic makeup or shared lineage? What a ridiculous standard for association.
But that was all before this recent Christmas break when, after delving into my own mysterious origins, I discovered that I’m not white like most everyone else here at CSU-I’m actually ethnic. With a mere sample of my DNA and a small fee, I was able to learn (with a 98.9% degree of accuracy) that I embody the culmination of two proud ethnicities: Russian Orthodox Jew and Panamanian.
Initially, I perceived this revelation to be trivial, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that specifying an ethnicity cast an entirely new light on my 22 years of American experience. I reclassified myself as a Panamo-Russo-Semitic-American, and I spent the remainder of the break exploring American history, specifically looking for the weighty achievements of my progenitors.
That’s when I discovered the nasty truth about the way American history is taught: none of the books I consulted contained any information about contributions made by Panamo-Russo-Semitic-Americans. None. I could understand if one or two history books had left this information out, but every single text I consulted conveniently avoided any mention of my distinct heritage.
Some of you who have not experienced having your roots historically whitewashed are probably scoffing at my pain right now, and, before I realized I was ethnic, I would’ve been laughing with you. But please abandon your misconceptions and preconceptions and allow me to give one specific concrete example of how Panamo-Russo-Semitic-Americans are consistently marginalized.
I’m sure almost everyone’s well-versed with the career of Baseball Hall of Famer, Rod Carew. I’ll bet most of you know he’s a member of the elite 3,000 Hit Club, as well as the fact that he spent 15 consecutive seasons with a batting average over .300. Some of you might even be familiar with his personal generosity and tireless charity work. But I’ll bet that almost none of you are aware of the fact that he is a Panamo-Russo-Semitic-American.
Clearly, the omission of Carew’s ethnicity from all sports coverage is symptomatic of the condescending racism and bigotry that pervades American mass media as a whole. Furthermore, the effects of anti-Panamo-Russo-Semitic-Americanism in the media trickle down to the everyday treatment of those like me by predominantly white Americans.
For example, I recently treated myself to an elegant dinner at Marvo’s, one of Ft. Collins most beloved dining establishments. Mysteriously, the hostess seated me at a table close to both the kitchen and the restroom, even though there were plenty of tables available in the middle of the dining area. As I wondered why this was done to me, it suddenly struck me that it was very likely because of my ethnicity. And, looking back over the course of my life when similar events happened, I’ve decided that inexplicable poor behavior was, in nearly every instance, a probable act of racism.
But I refuse to allow racism to become a stumbling block for me in the future, and I would like to encourage other Panamo-Russo-Semitic-Americans to take the same brave stand. Toward this end, I’ve decided to petition CSU to institute a new Panamo-Russo-Semitic-American Student Organization.
Furthermore, in an effort to raise awareness of our unique history and distinctive heritage, I’m hereby declaring January “National Panamo-Russo-Semitic-American History Month.” I plan on having a booth set up on the plaza, and everyone who understands the importance of ethnicity is welcome to stop by and learn more about a new and refreshing culture.
Jon Watkins is a senior majoring in English.