Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bieganski on Facebook


On Friday, August 12, at 5:59 p.m., in a facebook post, my friend P. reported that she was back from a trip to Poland, and that the trip was great.

At 7:33 p.m., her facebook friend, Ron, posted. This is a cut-and-paste of his entire post, "You travel all over Poland and come back with 'great trip' , not a single Pollack joke! What did you learn when you were there???" Another facebook poster, Brian, clicked the "like" icon under this comment.

Ron identifies himself on his facebook page as a "sharing, caring, instructor who loves to share his knowledge."

I did not respond immediately. I gave it some thought. Finally, I wrote what was simply true. "Ron, your post is an example of offensive bigotry."

My post was deleted. Ron's post remains. It is okay immediately to associate Poles and Poland with Polak jokes. It is not okay to protest that.

As I said in my talks this summer in Poland, if Polish identity is mentioned in America in a low or average status venue, the Polak joke is referenced. If Polish identity is mentioned in a high status venue, the Bieganski stereotype is referenced. That is not only socially acceptable, it is de rigueur. What is unacceptable, what is shocking, is protesting either the Polak joke or the Bieganski stereotype.

I don't mention this story because it is earth shattering or a big deal. It isn't earth shattering. It isn't a big deal. It's just business as usual; it's standard operating procedure. Ron is not a criminal; Ron's casual bigotry is not front-page news. Ron probably is the charing, sharing, teacher his facebook page identifies him as being. My friend is not exceptional in leaving Ron's Polak joke post up and deleting my protest against it. This is how Polish identity works in American culture.

Why this matters – Polak jokes are not just about Polak jokes. They are used to support a stereotype which, in turn, is used to distort world history. I don't blame Ron. I look to Polonia for effective, ethical, intelligent action. And I wait.

1 comment:

  1. The term bigotry is too vague. They will let themselves off that one by praising themselves for "enlightened" opinions related to non-Slavs. Call it Slavophobia. Then they can't use their views toward other groups to dodge the arrow.

    My post was deleted. Ron's post remains ---- You might want to find some new friends.

    My friend is not exceptional in leaving Ron's Polak joke post up and deleting my protest against it. This is how Polish identity works in American culture. --- Actually that is how your "friend's" identity works.

    These are termed "microinequities" by the sociological types, and produce progressively more damage as they abrade the soul.

    Whom does it serve? What's their payoff?

    Nemo

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