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My name is Colleen and I find dead people.

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25 November, 2007

The Role of Culture in America

I was reading a post by Jasia of Creative Gene in which she described her experience at Mazowsze, a Polish Dance Troupe. Her post reminded me of an experience I had in a college culture and ethnicity course, in which comments made by anyone other than a person of color were pretty much dismissed. The hidden message behind the shun was, in my and others' eyes, was 1) that white people couldn't possibly understand what people of color have gone through and continue to go through, and 2) that white people had no culture.


It wasn't the first message that bothered me, because I pretty much agree. On the same token, I don't think anyone can truly understand another person's personal experience in any situation; that's what makes the experience personal. However, we can hope to listen empathically and appreciate others' experiences for what they were -- good or bad -- and learn from them. As for the second message, well that was just downright wrong.



To the left are my mother's father's parents and daughters:


James O'ROURKE and Mary KEARNS, along with Mary/Mae, Margaret/Nellie, and Elizabeth/Betty. Both James and Mary's parents were born in Ireland.






In this repeat picture, sitting center in the second row from the bottom, are my mother's mother's parents, John and Jane (McCUE) Doyle. While John was born in England, his parents were from Ireland, as were Jane's parents.

















This is Mary GRIFFIN-McHUGH, my father's father's mother. She was born in Ireland, as was her husband, my great-grandfather Dennis Joseph.

These are my father's maternal grandparents, Edward and Justina (NAHODIL sp?) HODICK. Family lore had them born in Bavaria, Germany; however it is now believed that he was from Bohemia (all census records identify that as his birthplace, so we're investigating this) and she was from Fuenfkirchen, Austria (census records have her birthplace in Czechoslavakia, which given the political changes in the region, might make both beliefs true). At any rate, she was from Eastern Europe.




So this makes me of 6/8ths Irish descent and 2/8ths Eastern European descent. Yet in that class, this ethnic make up of my being was pushed aside; my skin was white, therefore I was American, aka culture-less.

I resented being left to feel like my heritage was irrelevant and my culture non-existent. But at the same time, that class did make me realize that, without a doubt, I am an American of Irish and Eastern European descent. I carry traits of those who came before me. I am constantly learning that things I believe or acts I partake in were part of my ancestors' lives too, and are therefore a result of my heritage. And yes, a result of my culture.

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