“I married a Korean.
“My father married an enemy Italian.
“My grandfather made the biggest cross cultural leap of all:
HE MARRIED A YANKEE!”
My mother was Napoletana as they come. I learned to speak English before she did.
While I was born in Raleigh NC, I grew up in Appalachia, about as poor and as hard scrabble a part of America as one could hope to imagine.
We were lucky, my southern cousins and my brothers and me, and we enjoyed a nice, comfortable, educated existence but we lived within a rock’s throw of people commonly called rednecks and crackers and peckerwoods but most often just plain ol’ hillbillies.
That’s my paternal grandfather’s side: Southern Scots-Irish from day one.
My paternal grandmother’s side was mostly Irish immigrants with a thick slab of German sandwiched in between; nobody in the family liked the Germans, not even the Germans themselves. A Joisey goil, she met my grandfather at Bellevue hospital in the run up to The Great War (i.e., WWI): She was a nurse, he was a doctor.
They met / married / mated and produced two daughters and a son, my father.
Dad’s marriage to Mom was a routine war romance save for two things: Circumstances kept Dad from returning to Italy to marry Mom for almost seven years, and Mom’s sister Mafalda married an African-American soldier in WWII.
There’s a lot of bad crazy behind the scenes family stuff I’m going to leave out. We were not even aware of our African-American cousins until fairly recently.
We’ll drape a fig leaf over certain relatives and say their advice to keep our branch of the family unaware of the Chicago branch was based on a desire to protect my brothers and myself from possible discrimination by white Southern bigots.
Nonetheless, here we are. I have family blood relatives who by all cultural standards of this country are black.
Franco Harris not withstanding.
Jump ahead another generation: I met and married my wife while stationed in Korea.
White guys married to Asian ladies are the most accepted form of interracial relationships in the US.
The white Southerners we encountered when we visited my parents were unfailingly kind and polite to Soon-ok.
We moved to Los Angeles when I left the army, a city with a much more laissez-faire attitude towards cross-cultural relationships.
Nonetheless, there were friction points for our daughters: Cruel children at their schools who either teased them for being too Asian or for not being Asian enough.
Jump to the next generation: One daughter is married to an all-American boy who happens to be a Romanian immigrant who arrived in this country at age 4. They recently adopted three wonderful kids who are of Mexican-American heritage.
Southern Scots-Irish / German / Irish / Italian / African / Korean / Romanian / Mexican-American by way of New Jersey and Chi-town with a stop over in NYC before settling in Los Angeles.
Some people will look at that and say: “See? Post-racial America. None of that stuff matters anymore.”
And I say: “You don’t really get it, do you?”
Whenever I see a news story about a 12 year old boy being gunned down as he plays in a public park in just the exact same way I played in public parks when I was 12 or hear some bigot screech about brown skinned immigrants ruining our country, I have absolutely no problem picturing a family member on the receiving end of that hate.
My God, I don’t want my cousins or my grandchildren or my wife demonized or treated like crap because they weren’t born the right color.
And the only way I can protect them is by making sure nobody else is allowed to be mistreated because of their race (or gender, or sexual orientation, or place of birth, or creed, or faith).
If I look after others, and others look after me and mine, then the chances of people suffering unjustly are greatly reduced.
So I’m compelled to call shenanigans on people who want to pretend race relations don’t need improving.
[2/1] He met Mom -- nearly ran over her, in fact -- during WWII. She was a bona fide card carrying fascist; we’ve got a picture of her in her young fascists uniform and everything.
[2/2] I am well aware many Asian and Asian-American women are irritated at men who approach them not because they are attracted to who the ladies really are but because they are attracted to the fantasy Asian female those guys have created in their heads. When you’ve been married 40+ years, I think it’s safe to say you’re relating to the real person and not a symbol, but I digress…
[2/3] All be it painfully pig-ignernt on occasion, but always without malice.