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Color Blind - 11/03

By Rich Trzupek
  I ain’t white.
  I’m a Slav. I’m the Polish flavor of Slav, and my ancestors have been oppressed. Greatly oppressed. Those oppressors were the Romanov dynasty in Russia, the Hapsburg dynasty running the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Prussian empire. For over a century, they stole our nation.
  My people, my ancestors, were enslaved by masters, though that form of slavery was described as “serfdom,” which somehow makes it sound somehow more humane to the modern, liberal ear than “slavery.”
  I ain’t white.
  Slavic serfs were bought and sold in Russia until the practice was abolished in 1861, a mere four years before the practice of buying and selling human beings was also outlawed in America. So, when somebody tells me that I’m the beneficiary of something they choose to call “white privilege” I can only conclude that those critics don’t have a clue about what the accusation means.
  I ain’t white.
  My daughter’s mom is 100 percent Hispanic. I am 100 percent Slavic. My daughter is – or ought to be – 50 percent genetically Hispanic and 50 percent genetically Slavic. I hope that she continues to value both heritages, but that’s beside the point. If you lined up my daughter, her mother and I and asked you to guess which person was more likely to be Hispanic on the basis of skin tone, I’ve no doubt that 99 percent plus of respondents would vote for me. My skin is a fair bit darker than either that of my daughter or her mom.
  When my daughter decided to join the Hispanic Club in high school (and that may not be the proper title, a mistake for which I will pre-emptively seek forgiveness) she was initially rejected on the grounds that her skin was too pale to qualify her as Hispanic.
  Reflect on that for a moment…
  My daughter may not be fluent in Spanish, but thanks to her mom and grandma, she can more than get by when needed. She may not be an expert in Mexican cuisine, but she delights in helping her Aguila make the absolute best and most authentic tamales every holiday season. (So good, by the by, that my daughter routinely hijacked for herself those tamales her Aguila designated for delivery to me after me and my daughter’s mom were divorced. Not that I blame my daughter – mere humans can only deal with so much temptation…)
  My daughter ain’t white.
  I am still baffled and amazed that she should ever have to make that declaration in high school. She was not born of any privileged class, she did not grow up with privilege and her success in life has had nothing to do with whatever presumptions people may make based on their idiotic presumptions of her identity based on their idiotic presumptions that define heritage in terms of skin tone.
  I ain’t white.
  The combined Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania had a brief run of success and leadership during the Medieval Ages, which included some experiments in representative government that were far ahead of their time, but which ultimately could not stand up to the cultural pressures on the time. Still, while they were around, they broke a lot of important new ground.
  By my count, my ancestors saved Western civilization at least three times – possibly four. One, when John III Sobieski stopped the Turks at the Gates of Vienna in 1683. Next when Józef Klemens Piłsudski crushed the Red Army in the Miracle of the Vistula in 1920, destroying Lenin’s dreams of a united, red Europe. And again, when John Paul II and Solidarity led the movement that tore down the evil Soviet empire.
  The fourth? There is a school of thought that contributions of Polish military engineer Tadeusz Kościuszko were a vital part of America’s victory in the Revolutionary War, but that may be something of a stretch. But for Kościuszko there would have been no fortifications on the Hudson at West Point? But for those fortifications the Brits would have still been able to use the Hudson to isolate New England – the beating heart of revolution – and thus defeat the rebellion? Maybe, But it’s not a slam dunk.
  I ain’t white.
  The reward my ancestors received for all their contributions to western civilization was to have their nation taken away from them for 123 years by imperialist bullies who forced them into servitude. At least one of my grandfathers was forced to serve the Hapsburg empire in uniform during the First World War. I doubt that he served his masters as a volunteer.
  When my ancestors finally had their nation returned to them, some migrated to the United States, the Land of Opportunity. My grandparents, on both sides, came over in the twenties. They did menial labor and were widely derided as “dumb Polacks”, or just DP’s for short. My folks decided not to let their six kids learn the Polish language because they feared the stigma attached to speaking Polish in public at the time.
  My dad worked in the steel mills of northwest Indiana. I and all of my siblings put ourselves through college and, in one case, nursing school. I and all of my brothers did hard, manual labor for many years in our youth. If I’m now a successful “one percenter” and if my sibs are as well, it’s because we bloody-well earned that badge in spite of our heritage, not because of it.
  I ain’t white.
  Perhaps there are people who have advanced and earned and been rewarded based on the color of their skin. I doubt that there are very many in this day and age, but I’m not expert enough to say so definitively. All I know for sure is that I, and my siblings, owe doodly squat to our skin color for our successes in life.
  My ancestors were persecuted by many, most notably the Romanov and Hapsburg families. Their descendants are sprinkled throughout the globe today and many control great wealth. Anybody who wants reparations from me because I am somehow associated with the institution of slavery in ante-bellum America needs to get in line.
  My ancestors had nothing to do with American slavery. At the time, they were in fact stateless, persecuted slaves. And unlike the insanely simple-minded idea that every person of a certain skin color is equally responsible and accountable for slavery in America, I come from a culture that can definitively identify the descendants of tyrants who enslaved my ancestors. Not by skin color, but by family tree.
  Yet, I’ll forgo the apologies and reparations that the fat and happy modern-day descendants of the Romanov and Hapsburg dynasties owe me and my brothers and sisters. We prosper in spite of the tyranny from which they descend. We believe that we’ll continue to do so and, with the Grace of God and in the spirit of His Forgiveness, we pray that they will too.
  PS: Let’s go Brandon!
  Email: rich@examinerpublications.com

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