I could not read this book without thinking of my own research regarding immigrants to America. My focus was on attitudes towards German immigrants, German-Americans, and Americans with German heritage during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. While some of my research necessarily involved attitudes towards other "non-white" whites,* I did not focus on it as much as I likely would if I were to publish my senior project as a book.
I think given current attitudes towards certain groups in our society that this topic is a good reminder to people. I'm sure there are quite a few Irish Catholics and even German Americans who have forgotten that they were once a persecuted and denigrated population. Being of German, Jewish, Irish, and other random stock, I am quite
glad that things in the United States changed and we became more
accepting of other ethnic groups. Our past shows that we can change, and gives me hope that things will continue to change in a positive manner. We have such a long way to go though, and it seems lately like we've been taking steps backwards.
Because of the economic situation people seem to be more likely hate the people who are already poor. While this includes white people, I think most people who think of "welfare mothers" and Prop 8 housing still think of African Americans. Then there's the "relatively" new overwhelming hatred of Muslims spurred on by extremely misinformed people who think that extremist Muslim groups are representative of all Muslims. This in turn has extended to anyone who even looks like they're of Middle Eastern decent, regardless of whether they actually are or not. And of course I have to mention that stupid, stupid law in Arizona
where you can be pulled over for "looking like an illegal immigrant." I don't know what the hell that's supposed to mean.
And finally, there are homosexuals, bi-sexuals, and the gender queer.
I'm sure most of my readers are aware of the recent suicides that have made the news. But honestly, this isn't news. These suicides have been going on for decades if not centuries. As bad as all of the other bigoted behavior, somehow I think this is worse. It affects people across all age, sex, gender, racial, religious, and economic lines. And what's even more terrible is that you don't actually have to be gay to face this kind of bigotry; all you have to do is be perceived as gay, such as this young boy who decided to be a cheerleader.
Or myself. This is a topic that is especially hurtful and made a good portion of my life miserable, especially as it came from people on both sides of the fence. First, there were the people who hated me because they thought I
was gay. Then there were the people who hated me or at least teased me
because they thought I was gay, who wanted me to be gay, and were angry
that I wouldn't come out of the closet. So to make them happy, I'm going to finally come out.
I identify as being a straight female-bodied person. I have had the occasional crush on other women, but I am primarily sexually attracted to men. On the other hand, I have been treated as a lesbian or gender queer person for so long that I sometimes find myself identifying as, or at the very least with, gender queer people. I am somewhat hesitant to call myself gender queer, because I don't feel that I rightly belong in that community. I am sort of in a strange cusp where I don't really belong to either group, and I have come to terms with that.
And I want to say, to everyone, it does get better, and it will get better. Unfortunately, you have to be the one to push it forward. After being taunted and harassed for being a lesbian for so long in 9th grade I decided I had nothing to lose and began going to P-FLAG meetings. I decided the best thing I could do was to push for equal rights and to assist family members with newly outed gay members in their adjustment and hopefully their eventual acceptance of said members. It was a way of not only working through my own issues as being an
"outed lesbian," but also of trying to improve the situations of other
outed gay people in the long run. I faced a lot of hardship from that decision, but it also gave me a lot of strength and resources in standing up for myself and the people who felt they couldn't.
I am still mistaken as being a lesbian and gender queer. For the most part it has become easier and less hurtful. I lead a more or less good life. I'm in a healthy relationship (with a man!). I have friends of all backgrounds, various degrees of male, female, and other gendered-ness, gays and lesbians and bi-sexuals, and I am generally a happy person. I am glad that I didn't commit suicide when I was 14, and to anyone out there who is considering it, I hope that in 10 years, or even sooner, that you will be able to say the same.
I look forward to the day when homosexuals become as accepted as the Irish are now. I hope we are close to that day. In the meantime, I accept you for who you are, and if you need to talk to someone, please, please, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
My review can be found on Goodreads.
You can follow the rest of the book tour, here.
*The Irish and Italians would not be considered "white" until
later. If you're interested in the subject of "whiteness" I highly
recommend Painter's The History of White People.