Thursday, September 12, 2019

Talk of Stereotypes of Poles is Suspect and Only for Dumb Polaks


A conference is scheduled to be held in Washington, DC, in November 18-20. The conference announces that it will address stereotypes of Poles, inter alia. 

You can read about the conference here

A Polish American poet asked about the conference on the PAHA Facebook page, here

AL, a Facebook poster, wrote, 

"My suspicions were immediately aroused by two of the program's 5 goals: 'Overcoming false stereotypes about Poland and Poles in the US, primarily in the context of World War II and its aftermath' and 'Publication and distribution of a conference book on the history of Poland, with corrections of the most prevalent and striking falsehoods' 
Anyone familiar with the issue will recognize the wording as reflecting the views and agenda of the current "patriotic" Polish government.
I also recognized a few of the names associated with the program (including Wojciech Jesman of the Polish American Congress, an outspoken supporter--as is much of the PAC--of PiS). Further online investigation confirms that most of the Polish speakers represent the views of the current Polish government.
In summary, this ostensibly academic/historical conference appears to be aimed at promoting the conservative (and, in many circles, controversial) agenda of the Polish government.
That is not to say the program has no merit, only that its agenda and presentations must be viewed critically, if not with suspicion."

I was troubled by this post. 

I don't know AL. I don't know his agenda. I don't even know if he is Polish-American. 

What troubles me is the assumption that discussion of stereotypes of Poles, as AL wrote, "must be viewed with suspicion."

Here's what I do know. Poles are stereotyped negatively. If one is Polish, one risks being stereotyped negatively. One way to avoid that stereotyping is to put distance between oneself and Polish identity.

I've seen Poles do this. I saw Poles do this all the time on the Notes from Poland page. 

"Oh, those primitive, peasant, Catholic Polaks. I'm not like them. I like African sausage." yes, I really did see a post that said that on the Notes from Poland page. 

I don't know if AL suffers from this self-hatred. 

I invited dialogue. I said, and this is my entire post, I'm not editing anything out, 

"'Overcoming false stereotypes about Poland and Poles in the US, primarily in the context of World War II and its aftermath'
It's not at all clear to me why this sentence would raise alarms.
There are false stereotypes about Poland and Poles in the US in the context of WW II and its aftermath."

AL, in response to my post, said that, unlike another poster whom he assessed favorably,  I did not "clearly understand the underlying issues and concerns."

So. I'm a Dumb Polak. Or maybe just a dumb woman. The other poster was male, obviously superior to me in understanding. 

The man with superior understanding told me to stop posting on the page. 

Thus, I am posting about the exchange here, since I am not allowed to post on that page. 

Note: all I did was say what I said above. "There are false stereotypes about Poland and Poles in the US in the context of WW II and its aftermath."

And I was told to stop posting. And dismissed as a Dumb Polak. By Polish men. On a Polish interest Facebook page. 

AL was allowed to continue to post on the page, referring to me as "Ms," not "Dr." And he insisted that I "completely missed" his point. 

No, I clearly got his point. Any discussion of stereotypes of Poles is taboo, because it might, just might, please someone in the current, right-wing, Polish government. 

There's a great meme out there. "Hitler drank water. So do you." 

Just because the current, right-wing Polish government talks about stereotypes, doesn't mean that talk of stereotypes is right-wing. That's a basic logical concept. 

AL missed that point. But understanding me and addressing what I was saying was not on his agenda. Putting down a Polish woman in public was on his agenda. Demonizing any discussion of stereotyping as a right-wing evil was on his agenda. 

Tell me we Poles don't sabotage ourselves. 

I invite the two men who found my posts objectionable to post in the comments section here. I will not censor any civil and pertinent posts, and I will respond to any civil, pertinent posts with respect. 

About the photo illustrating this post. It's from "The Women of Polish Independence." "They were organisers of underground education, diplomats, terrorists and soldiers disguised in men’s uniforms. During the era Poland was partitioned, these forgotten heroines fought a double war: for their country’s independence and their own empancipation."

Their fight is ongoing. 


  1. Yep. Poles are stereotyped, and then--to top it all off--are blamed for identifying and objecting to the stereotypes. Where will it end?

  2. "Further online investigation confirms that most of the Polish speakers represent the views of the current Polish government." The same results may confirm, that the current Polish government represents the views of most Polish speakers.

    1. Well said.

      Mind -- I take no position on the current Polish government. but that was well said.

  3. I'm sorry, I have misunderstood the word "speakers" in the quoted text. Regarding "suspicions". There was a Holocaust conference in Paris in February. The speakers had very similar opinions about the Polish responsibility. There was only very little time for discussion and protesters were described by world media as right-wing nationalists. As far no recordings or texts have been published to support the accusations. Ambassador Kumoch has watched available recordings and hasn't found any anti-Semitic protests.

  4. I don't see any radical speaker from Poland. I don't know the American ones.

    1. Well, the gentlemen who were giving me a hard time on Facebook have been invited here to explain their views, and I see no posts from them. They are still invited. If they want to explain who is radical and what radical things will be said, they are welcome to do so here.


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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