Tuesday, February 26, 2019

No One is Talking about Cold War. Further Evidence of How Poles Have Failed to Shed Light on Their Story

Years ago, in the 1980s, I attended a meeting of high-minded liberals at Black Oak Books in Berkeley, California. A speaker for some high-minded international organization, I forget which one, had a huge map of the world on display. The speaker divided the world up into influence zones. The overall message was that Americans must be nicer to a given overseas population. The talk was meant to be comprehensive, to address *the entire world.*

After the talk and the applause were done, I raised my hand. "Your talk and your map are meant to treat the entire world. There is part of the world that you have totally ignored. You don't mention the Baltics from the north to the Balkans in the south of Eastern Europe."

The speaker appeared totally embarrassed, taken aback. The reaction was "OMG."

The speaker hadn't even thought of Eastern Europe, in this meant-to-be comprehensive division of the world into zones and how Americans should feel about each zone.

After Sunday night's Oscars, I have heard, on NPR, at least *four* broadcasts devoted to telling the audience that one must not like the best-picture winner, "Green Book." Why? Because it features a sympathetic white, male character. I heard these broadcasts on "All Things Considered," "Q," "All of It," and at least one other broadcast, forget which one.

It went like this. "Black Panther" should have won because it is BLACK. "Roma" should have won because it is HISPANIC. "Green Book" should not have won because it features a sympathetic white male, and we all know white males are evil. Oh, and, we all liked "Crazy Rich Asians," because Asian, but Asian is almost white, so it doesn't score as high as black or Hispanic.

This is the conversation in the US right now. Anyone who wants to address stereotypes of Poles in the West needs to understand and address this wider conversation.

A film that no one talked about in any  of these Oscar post-mortems was "Cold War." A Polish movie. That has received the highest praise. Because Poles have not worked their story into the national dialogue. Powers-that-be talking about ethnicity in America don't have to factor Poles into that conversation, even after a critically praised movie is ignored at the Oscars, because Pole's inability to make themselves heard in the national conversation renders Poles non-beings in that national conversation about race and ethnicity.

My book, Bieganski, does work Poles' story into the national conversations about race and ethnicity. Thus the chapters devoted to the history of the stereotype, and how it has played out against stereotypes of Blacks and Jews.

Poles might benefit from reading, using, and supporting this book.


  1. Kimberly Wachtel, a Polish American artist, shares the following via Facebook:

    I also was listening to some pre oscar award commentary on NPR over the weekend and was SO surprised by the absence of much mention of Cold War. One show mentioned it in passing, the man dismissed it, saying he did not like it. That was all. Not why he did not like it.

    It was talked about for like 3 seconds and then he quickly moved on to how much he loved the Favourite (which I saw and did not like).

    The other commentary I heard, there was absolutely no mention of Cold War. I was surprised as I had just seen it and thought it was just wonderful.

    I think this is it, you nailed it. We just don't talk about Poland or other eastern European countries and their cultures in America very much, if at all. And when we do, the culture is often depicted in a negative fashion.

    I find this all so confusing and head f***ing. How can some cultures be SO prominent and others be virtually invisible. I get that and very much support black stories, Hispanic stories, POC stories, need to be shared and heard.

    I also think there are other stories we can and should learn more about and should also be prominently told and shared in the world in an honest fashion. While overseas in Poland I really finally understood how skewed American education is bent towards the history of western Europe. I didn't know anything about Poland and my grandmother lived there until she was 13! Now (rightly so) stories that focus on POC in America and other countries are gaining more and more attention.

    I would also like to see Eastern European stories be treated in a similar way, with attention, interest and respect. We can learn from these stories too.

  2. http://thenews.pl/1/11/Artykul/25110,Recovering-Forgotten-History-in-Krakow There are (were ?) yearly conferences for Western historians in Poland. Some standard US textbooks have been corrected.

  3. Jan Peczkis submits the following:

    " Poles are supposed to "tell their story" when they have limited access to, and still less sympathy in, the media."

    Sorry, Jan, I don't want to go around this mulberry bush with you for the thousandth time. You and others have said this again and again for the past thirty years that I've been involved in Polish Jewish relations.

    I've demonstrated that it is false.

    No one is preventing Poles from making effective use of media.

    There is no Jewish monopoly on power or Jewish conspiracy to silence Poles.

    Poles can get their act together and decide to support their own scholars and storytellers.

    It will be a great day when that happens.

  4. The consideration about Polish access to media and academia is not so easily dismissed. Readers may be familiar with the experiences of scholars such as Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and Ewa Kurek. Because of their research that deviates from the standard narrative, they have been variously delegitimized, transormed into Orwellian unpersons, and made the subject of attempts to get them removed from their positions.

  5. Jan Peczkis oh stop. Just stop. This is such nonsense. Please tell me how the all powerful Jews prevent Polish Americans from attending graduate school, from getting advanced degrees, from uniting with and supporting their fellow scholars.

    Norman Davies was one of the most powerful and famous scholars in the world on any topic, but specifically on Poland. When Stanford shafted him, did Polonia rescue him?

    Did Polonia get your reviews back up on Amazon?

    Jan Peczkis last spring I attended a meeting largely of African American students on a campus. They were unhappy with an event that appeared in the news and they demanded that the university address their concerns with major changes. Guess what? The university is doing everything these students demanded, at one meeting.

    Unite. Organize Act strategically.

    Rather than this constant whining about how helpless Polish people are.

    1. We can agree to agree on Polish docility and inaction.

      I often wish that I had the gift of inducing people to obey me. I would then effectively have a private army, consisting of thousands of talented activists, all of whom would obey my every command. That would put an end to the Polish squabbling. Polish action would replace Polish complaining.

      Then the action would start:

      No justice, no peace!

      And make it sting.

  6. I am frequently told by Polonians that they are very upset about stereotyping but that they haven't read Bieganski. Recently a Polish American told me she hasn't read it because it is too expensive. It is expensive because no one buys it. If more bought it, the price would be more reasonable.

    The woman who told me this frequently posts, on social media, photos of her international vacations in Asia and Latin America.

    But she can't afford a book.

    Those values do not serve Polonia. As long as Polonia prioritizes like that, we aren't going to do anything about our story not being told.

    And, again, since the book has been published, I have received several invitations to speak. Only *one* such invitation came from a Polish American group.



Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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