My maternal grandfather was my first exemplar of bigotry. It didn’t take me long in life to begin to wonder if there was any group of human beings that he didn’t detest.
My maternal grandfather was my first exemplar of bigotry.
I eventually narrowed it down to Norwegians.
I also noticed that all of these groups of people were designated by the word “the.” The definite article served to objectify them just a bit more, to encapsulate them into the tight little containers that allowed him to dismiss them, to ignore all individuality among them, to consider that some of them might not be…like that. How could they not be, when they were ALL “like that?” Worse, these disparate groups were all forever on the verge of “taking over” and he really dreaded that day.
I learned very early in life that Pop-Pop was a hateful little gnome and generally full of shit.
Without exaggeration, these are the groups of people that I remember my Grandfather talking down upon. The words used are his, except for one example that I will gladly bowdlerize:
The “Blacks.” Except he usually didn’t use the word “blacks.” If he was feeling kind he said “coloreds. He was seldom kind.
The “Spics.” Which in his time were people from Puerto Rico, not Mexico or elsewhere. Blame West Side Story.
The “Micks.” Which amused my many friends of Irish heritage.
The “Wops.” Like me, like me…. Occasionally they were referred to as “Dagos” or “Guineas.” He once called me a wop in front of my Dad. Only once.
The “Faggots.” I severely doubt he ever knew of even one.
The “Gypsies.” I think my town had, then, maybe five Rom families, living in a building on Broadway at around 23rd St. But dammit, to him they were a threat!
The “Broads.” I guess he was annoyed that he only had daughters..
The “Polocks.” I had more Polish friends than Irish!
The “Swedes.” Seriously. Norwegian v Swedish rivalry and dislike was a real thing.
The “damned Democrats.” His hatred of FDR was almost cartoonlike.
The “Jews.” Originality was never his forte.
The “Hippies” and their close associates, the “peaceniks.” Whom I think were mainly “faggots” in his mind.
This was the environment that produced my Mom. Presumably my dad grew up immersed in a similar foul stew. How they managed to be, as far as I could tell, two of the least bigoted white people in the Greatest Generation is beyond my ken.
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.