Why My Name Is The Czech

…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.

13 thoughts on “Why My Name Is The Czech

  1. Hey, been lurking on the blog for a bit, and have to say that I really enjoy reading these entries. They’re all well-written and I agree with pretty much everything here (including this post). Ohh and the Czechness is especially nice for me, since I’ve now fallen irreversibly in love with the ČR after spending a semester in Prague earlier this year :D

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  3. This is exactly what I have been trying to explain to people about myself for years. I also identify as Czech-American for basically these exact reasons. I have one particularly snobbish(in personality) former-friend who is 4th generation Mexican-American. She is half Mexican-American, half Polish American. I am 4th generation Czech American, My fathers grandmother was a Czech immigrant with her family. I’m about 5th or 6th generation German as well. When I identified myself as Czech, she got mad at me and was really offended and said that I was American and not Czech. Well then shouldn’t she be calling herself American and not Latina? I mean, I am white by all American standards, I have white privilege of course – but why can’t I identify as Czech-American? One could argue that it’s because she has kept her culture and I have not. This I think is a flawed notion, as it claims Mexican culture to be “other” with American culture being the standard that everything else compares to. Of course it appears that she has hung onto more of her culture than I have, because her culture is much more different to white American culture than mine is. (Except for that picked egg recipe that our family has and that memory my father has of his grandmother making him eat “Duck Blood Soup” … not we are completely American no culture here.) She also has easier access to her culture here. She spends vacations at her old family homestead in New Mexico, just a state away from her home here in Colorado. And the hispanic population of Colorado is about 20%. She took Spanish all the way through High School. She was part of the Latina Leadership Club. They don’t even offer Czech on Duolingo, much less in a high school. On my families side of things, My grandfather on the other side remembers his mother not wanting to mention her German heritage during or after World War II. She grew up speaking German – raised by her Pennsylvania Dutch Grandparents – but I never even knew this until later in life. My father remembers that his grandmother reverted back to Czech on her deathbed, and no one could understand her. Her children didn’t speak Czech, she didn’t even speak it. Because it wasn’t White American enough. We have family friends that we just learned in casual conversion had changed their name from Schörner to Shaner during World War II because they were afraid. I have no ability to have as deep of a connection to my culture as she does. It was stolen from me before my birth by the myth of White America – and cultural community left my Germans and Czech ancestors (both forced out of their homeland) in Europe.
    This is long and rambling and not at all edited, but it feels nice to get it off my chest – especially directed to someone who “gets it.”

    Also to note: Czechs are Slavic – not even technically “European” in the white (Norhtern) European Sense
    And don’t get me started on the term “Bohemian” which originally referred to Czech people before being used to describe poor artists and aesthetes in the 18th and 19th century and now is used as an excuse for white girls to appropriate cultural dress for “fashion” it’s like the cultural appropriative matrix aueghhhh

  4. great piece, I have almost the same story. My grandfather and his two brothers changed their names in the 20’s to sound more white American and no one had his original birth certificate and the three changed to three very different names, so I have nothing to really search for heritage on. but finally got to Czech twice now and felt as if I was home, Praha is a wonderful and exciting city.

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