…And I’m back!
After some months away, I have decided to fire up the ol’ blog again and see how it goes. If safety becomes an issue, I will just stop again.
So I thought a good way to start this new chapter would be an explanation of my name. I chose it for a hodge podge of reasons. I identify strongly with my immigrant roots. My family has been bumping around the United States for a couple generations now, but we have retained a connection with our country of origin and I have retained a sense of my history in this country as a descendant of immigrants. I don’t want to forget that there were peoples here before the white man, people who are still here. It is partially out of deference to them that I identify as Czech-American.
My name also has to do with my white privilege. My Czech descendants were light-skinned, and so am I. (Not all Czechs appear “white”.) Czechs have not always been considered white. A certain German dictator had a special name for us: Minderwertige Rasse (“less-worthy race”), insinuating that we were not the white race, we were something else, something less-than.
That is mostly behind Czechs now. In America, we get white-skin privilege, regardless of that history. And I want to own the fact that I receive that privilege, however unwillingly, and the responsibility that bestows upon me. So I make my identity very clear through my screen name. There will be no mistake when I am in anyone’s space- I cannot ignore my white privilege and try to fly under the radar in spaces created by people of color. I will have to confront it all the time, and check myself with each comment.
I chose to identify as Czech-American and not white for a reason. I do not deny the white privilege that I benefit from. But I do not want to “own” my whiteness. I do not want to perpetuate white supremacy and proudly “own” whiteness. Identifying as white is problematic because whiteness only came to exist as a status self-assigned in order to denote superiority over others unwillingly assigned as something else. I cannot further that history by actively “being” white.
I do not want to identify as Caucasian either. That term also has a troubling history. A German anthropologist coined the term for these reasons:
“Caucasian variety – I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones (birth place) of mankind.”
Again with the glorifying of whiteness. And so again, I cannot reaffirm this term as a valid description for a group of people, since superiority is inherent in the word.
European-American is acceptable, because it follows the patterns already in use for peoples of color: Asian-American, African-American, Mexican-American, etc. However, I do not feel it is completely correct in my case. As a person of Central/Eastern European descent, my ancestors never were considered part of the ‘higher’ cultures of Western European countries. We’ve always been a bit of a hinterland, and for centuries a conquered and occupied people, to the peoples of Western Europe. I strongly feel a division from Europeans from the West. Czech-American is the descriptor I feel most comfortable with.
And from that, I became The Czech, Esq, MD, MSW, PhD, LMP, EMT, Defender of Justice, Earl of Essex, Lutheran Youth Minister, Head Sous Chef, 4-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, IBEW Local 67 Committee Chair, DnD LARP DungeonMaster, War Czar, Assistant Director of CleenGeorgia Waste Management, Televangelist, Free Range Pygmy Hen Breeder, Down-Low Danny’s Stripper Night Crowd Favorite, US Ambassador to Malawi, CEO Intel Corp, Runway Model, New Guinea Igneous Rock Formations Expert, Chairperson of the PTA, Founder: Doctor McProfessional’s EZ Parasitic Twin Removal System Corp, Cub Scout Leader, Oprah Book Club Author, Crochet Instructor, Badminton World Champion 5 Times Running, Producer: KMart Employee Safety Videos, 80s One-Hit Wonder, Associate Joist Factory Inspector, Winner: East Fairfield Paul Bunyan Pancake Eat-Off, Knight of Columbus, Karate Black Belt, Oscar-Winning Actress, 99 Cent Plus Employee of the Month July 1998.