Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1993 17:07:04 -0600

>Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1993 14:49:13 -0500 (CDT)

>From: Richard Tuerk <TUERK@ETSUACAD.BITNET>

>Subject: RE: Trauma and the Holocaust

>To: American Studies discussion list <H-AMSTDY@UICVM.BITNET>

I too find the term EuroAmericans or European-Americans difficult. That no such ethnic group exists is illustrated all too clearly by the fighting now going on in Eastern Europe. The terms would seem to have no meaning at all. I find even worse the use of the term Anglo to describe all Americans of European descent. Even though I am called an Anglo, I certainly do not consider myself to be an Anglo. None of my ancestors ever lived in England. In fact, through most of England's history, my ancestors would not have been welcomed in England.

As for the Holocaust Museum, I consider it very important. It is a reminder to the world of something the world is all too likely to forget. It is certainly not a negative thing. Among other things, it says to the world that at least in principle, our nation will not tolerate this kind of thing ever again. Whether our actual practice will live up to the principle is another matter. Our lack of action in connection with the "ethnic cleansing" now occurring in Eastern Europe perhaps indicates that at least our national will is not as strong as it should be. At any rate, Jews view the Holocaust Museum in DC the way we view similar (but not as extensive or as well publicized) museums in places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas: as statements that we remember what happened in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s, and we'll do everything possible to keep it from happening ever again.





(903) 886-5266

>Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1993 10:50:12 -0400 (EDT)

>From: (Susan Reed)

>Subject: RE: "European Americans"


I agree with Dana Howard when he says that "the term [Euro-American] helps to generally place groups so that aspects of their American experience can then generally [be] looked at as a point of departure NOT a cubby hole assumptive generalization."

(You all can see that I don't know how to copy mechanically now . . . )

What I am curious about is the source of the "discomfort" with the term "Euro-American." Would such discomfort be consonant with a belief in individualism? With a belief in the melting pot?

Susan Reed

Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1993 19:01:55 -0600

I have always found the term "Euro-American" uncomfortable. The image this term brings to mind is that of an Anglo ruling class in American history. I am half Greek and half Irish, and my ancestors have never had life "easy" in the United States. The Irish were the one of the first groups discriminated against in the United States (after the Indians, of course). Side Note: Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" parodies these early American ethnic relations when he has one of his characters exclaim "Okay, we'll take the niggers and the chinks, but NOT the Irish". As Western Europeans, my Greek grandparents, who were the first to emigrate to America, had a really hard time being accepted by Anglo-Americans, even in the 1940's. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that all dark haired an skinned peoples were assumed to be Italian, which wasn't the most loved country in the world during that decade.

To sum up, I think the term Euro-American belittles the struggles that many immigrants, esp. Western European, experienced and that is why so many people are uncomfortable w/ the term.



Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1993 19:04:12 -0600

>Subject: RE: "European Americans"

>To: American Studies discussion list <H-AMSTDY@UICVM.BITNET>

Susan Reed writes:

>I agree with Dana Howard when he says that "the term [Euro-American] helps to generally place groups so that aspects of their American experience can then generally [be] looked at as a point of departure NOT a cubby hole assumptive generalization."

>What I am curious about is the source of the "discomfort" with the term "Euro-American." Would such discomfort be consonant with a belief in individualism? With a belief in the melting pot?

Terms like European American, Asian American, Hispanic American are convenient fictions for labeling different groups of people. But they are just that: fictions. They have precious little to do with reality. Sure, European Americans have ancestors that came from Europe. But that hardly puts them into the same ethnic group. I've never met anyone who really considers him- or her-self to be a European American. I've met lots of Italian Americans, Greek Americans, Jewish Americans, Polish Americans, Danish Americans, etc. What does one gain by using broad labels like European American? I don't know. I do, however, know some things that are lost. I've heard educators talk about the way to teach things to European Americans as opposed to the way to teach things to, say, Asian Americans. To talk in such terms leads to a new kind of stereotyping. It denies people their individuality. Don't get me wrong. The educators to whom I am referring do not talk in terms of tendencies. That is, they do not say things like Asian Americans are less likely to have read The Iliad than European Americans are (I'm not at all sure that this is a fact). They say, Asian Americans in your classes will not have read The Iliad. And when they make these statements, their audiences are often appreciative and accept the statements as some kind of gospel.

I'm also disturbed by the uses bureaucrats on both a state and national level make of these very broad classifications. They too seem to assume that the people who belong to these broad areas have certain characteristics in common as well as certain characteristics that absolutely distinguish them from members of the other broad groups. It seems to me that such thinking often smacks of racism.





(903) 886-5266

>Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1993 18:24:30 -0400 (EDT)

>From: "Matthew Gilmore (DC Pub. Lib)" <>

>Subject: "European Americans"

>To: H-Amstdy@uicvm.bitnet

Let me stick my neck out and hope it won't get cut off.

I was introduced to the term "Euro-American" or "European-American" about a year ago.

It sounded absurd to me then and it still does.

Europe includes, Spain, Italy, Greece, England, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Hungary, etc.

The differences stand out far more sharply than the similarities. If there is a common culture, it is based on Judaeo-Christian values/mores, although there is the Catholic/Protestant/Orthodox split, and there are various Muslims in Europe, as the Bosnian situation has reminded everyone.

We can argue for quite some time about defining Europe and even whether there is a Europe or just a largish Asian peninsula.

So what do "Euro-Americans" really have in common? White skin.

Why not just call us white (or sort of pinkish). :-)

A geographic euphemism for a designation by skin color/race just doesn't ring true.

That is why there is "unease" about the term.

I will beg the question about African-American, Asian-American, etc.

Matthew Gilmore

Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1993 16:42:37 -0600

From: IN%"" "Julia Eulenberg" 20-JUL-1993 11:55:24.5


Susan Reed asks if our discomfort with this term is based on the melting pot theory or on individualism. For me, the discomfort lies in the total nondescriptiveness of the term. And, after a few generations, in the whole notion that we might still need to hyphenate.

For those of my German-American family who still live in a small town, near where they settled upon arrival, there is a question upon meeting somewhere else. "Who are you from home?" By which is meant, who is your family, what is your pedigree? But I grew up in a large city in the same state, and no one would ever have thought of asking such a question or of categorizing me as German-American. In 1960? And when I moved West, it was also not an issue. After a while, people even stopped asking where I had come from originally (a faded accent and, I think, a lack of concern; this was just not an issue).

It is true that I am more than German-American, but I simply see that factor as one aspect of who I am as an American. To suddenly have to describe myself as Euro-American would be as silly as simply saying "mutt" or "Heinz 57," which are both used deprecatingly. I am a woman. I have a religion. I have various ethnic backgrounds. I am considered Caucasian, or white, depending on the score sheet. I am "older." We fit into a certain income bracket. These are all statistical, demographic pieces of information.

My own concern as a historian is with the development of specific ethnic groups and the comparison of one with another. Euro-American, as a set, would certainly interfere with my trying to do such studies. It would imply a different kind of blend than I am after. I have another concern as a historian as well: why is it that we in America are so concerned with race and trying to assign individuals to various categories? And, are we in fact more concerned than others? We once thought that at least some of the Europeans were more accepting. Were they really? If so, what has changed to make them less so now?

Julie Eulenberg (

Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1993 16:54:16 -0600

From: IN%"" "R. CHATTERJEE" 20-JUL-1993 15:41:32.16

I find the term EuroAmerican or European-American interesting in the responses it evokes from individuals who feel implicated by its connotations. Richard Tuerk writes that he finds the term "difficult" and bases his conclusion that no such ethnic group exists on the fighting going on in Eastern Europe. If ethnic group designation in the United States relies on the cohesion of the proposed group in their continent or sub-continent of origin, the terms African American or Asian American would also be meaningless. The term ethnic group itself would also disintegrate, if it had to be defined as a group of people who do not fight amongst each other. The histories of Africa and what is sweepingly referred to as "Asia" (Pakistan to Japan, China to the Phillipines) do not present us with any consistent evidence of ethnic group cohesion on the continental or hemispheric level. This does not stop the terms "African American" and "Asian American" from being used on a regular basis by American social scientists, cultural intellectuals, and government bureaucrats. The term "Anglo" certainly does fail to reflect the cultural diversity of the European subcontinent but in the American context, it refers to the fact the civil society and dominant public institutions of the United States are based on models derived from, most strongly, British culture and society. The English language is the sole official language of American society. This has not been challenged on a national scale by any other ethnic group, immigrant or indigenous. Americans pride themselves on the development of unique political and legal institutions, but these developments occured, antagonisitcally or not, largely in terms of America's relationship to England, and to some extent, France.

The other issue Tuerk raises is self-identification: "Even though I am called an Anglo, I certainly do not consider myself to be an Anglo." It is true that terms like African American and Hispanic American are "convenient fictions of labelling different groups of people." I doubt however that these terms have little to do with reality. Minority group identifications are largely a matter of ascription by the dominant or majority group. European Americans do not have to think of themselves as Europeans and can afford the luxury of their specific national or religious ethnic identities. They do not have to live under the spectre of a dominant culture whose systemic patterns of racial discrimination do not stop to differentiate between Caribbean or African, Korean or Japanese. If these "fictions" are being perpetuated by state and national bureaucrats, how much more real do they have to be until historians recognize the impact these "fictional" categories have on American people's lives. I agree with the point that ethnic group catergories are used by state and national bureaucrats (and unfortunately by teachers in schools and universities) to characterize absolute distinctions between groups. I agree that this rigid procedure does smack of racism. However the point that the European unification of Americans whose ancestors came from Europe somehow robs them of their individuality is a self-indulgent complaint on the part of a group who has always had the luxury to choose and the lightness of skin to pass into America's dominant culture of normative whiteness. I am not talking about individual experiences of hardship. There are plenty enough of those stories from any human being on this planet. For most of America's history though, African, Hispanic, Asian and other non-white minority groups have not had the privilege of having an individuality to be robbed of. If we consider the migration of Europeans to North America from the end of the 15th century to the present as a diasporic phenomenon much in the same way we understand the diaspora of African slaves to the Americas or Chinese male laborers to North America as a continuous pattern of historical movement, we can put Europe's contribution to the colonization of North America into the perspective the last five centuries in reference to wider global movements of colonization and migration. I do not see how complaints about coming off badly as an European American should prevent us from studying the formative impact of European migration to the Americas any more than I should feel compelled to hold off a study of hegemony and conflict in African or Asian societies on account of individually motivated fears of unflattering self-disclosures.

Tomo Hattori

Department of English

McMaster University

Hamilton, Ontario

L8S 4L9


>Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1993 13:29:49 -0300 (BST)


>Subject: RE: "European Americans"

>To: American Studies discussion list <>

Matthew Gilmore writes:

>We can argue for quite some time about defining Europe and even whether >there is a Europe or just a largish Asian peninsula.

>So what do "Euro-Americans" really have in common? White skin.

>Why not just call us white (or sort of pinkish). :-)

>A geographic euphemism for a designation by skin color/race just doesn't >ring true.

>That is why there is "unease" about the term.

Well done, Matthew Gilmore, for bringing the comparison between the terms 'Euro-American' and 'African-American' out into the open. I was wondering how long it was going to be before somebody did. :-) If Euro-American is too generalizing a term for Americans of European stock, how much more so is African-American? What's so wrong with plain old 'American', since, wherever your great-great-great-great Grand-daddy came from, is pretty irrelevant to who _you_ are, in the here and now? Of course, the experiences of our ancestors should be taken into account - if only in some cases so that we don't repeat the crimes of the past - but if kids are going without jobs, or are being beaten up for the colour of their skin, or the clothes they wear, then there's something very wrong whoever their forefathers were.

I'm quite aware of the arguments which led to the adoption of the term African-American, but I think it was probably wrong to do so. The experience of people brought up and living in America is above all American experience, however inconvenient it may be/have been for the authorities to accept. Such categories strengthen existing power structures by marginalizing the group in question: by making them seem somehow less than American. This is the technique of divide and rule at its most unpleasant.

I hope this doesn't count as a mass 'flaming'. It's not meant that way. Perhaps my distance from the American political climate distorts my perception of the meaning of these terms, but I think it's ironic that Europeans (it's not just me) should be concerned about the appearance of a very definite and visible system of class on the other side of the Atlantic. And I don't mean by that that our class system is any better.



>Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1993 11:49:41 -0400 (EDT)

>From: (Susan Reed)

>Subject: "European Americans"

>To: H-AMSTDY@UICVM.bitnet

Matthew Gilmore writes:

>So what do 'Euro-Americans' really have in common? White skin.

I'd suggest that "Euro-Americans" have one other thing in common too: we are all members of the dominant class in U.S. culture, and as such, we have privileges that other U.S. citizens do not have.

I don't believe that African-Americans object to hearing themselves labeled as a group-in fact, whether they like it or not, white Americans label "black" individuals as African American BEFORE seeing their individuality.

Richard Tuerk writes that using "racial" labels "denies people their individuality." Perhaps "Euro-Americans" are the only group in the U.S. who have the luxury of defining themselves as individuals. And we resist thinking of ourselves as having any race at all because of that.

I use the "labels" of the five racial stocks in the U.S. as a kind of non-restrictive quota system when I'm designing my courses. The labels let me know if I'm fairly representing the experience of ALL Americans.

Susan Reed

Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1993 08:48:31 -0600

From: IN%"TUERK@ETSUACAD.BITNET" "Richard Tuerk" 21-JUL-1993 08:29:08.57

A message on 20 July 93 said:

However the point that the European unification of Americans whose ancestors came from Europe somehow robs them of their individuality is a self-indulgent complaint on the part of a group who has always had the luxury to choose and the lightness of skin to pass into America's dominant culture of normative whiteness.

This idea is extremely interesting. However, as the history of Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian Americans, Polish Americans, and other groups of Americans from Southern and Eastern Europe shows, it just plain is not true. Yes, I guess one can pretend to be what one is not, and if one's physiognomy and complexion permit (either naturally or through surgical alteration) one may indeed at present "pass" as a member of an ethnic group other than the one to which one belongs. And it is true that the restrictions on these groups are not as great as they once were. Still, the word "always" in the above quotation is a distortion. Sorry, but I still remember the days when the only swimming pool in the community where I grew up had a sign saying "No dogs or Jews allowed." Is this simply a story of individual hardship? Hardly. Such signs were not all that rare in the Baltimore area. In addition, there were many "restricted" neighborhoods, that is, neighborhoods that kept out members of certain ethnic groups. And yes, the people living in the neighborhoods were Euro-Americans, and those kept out were Euro-Americans.

I wonder what we are meaning when we talk about "ethnic groups." I frankly don't see how Asian American is a very useful ethnic identification. If "ethnic group" simply means labels given by the majority to the minority, as some people on this list imply, then I'd have to agree with the people who say that they serve no purpose at all. If, however, it has something to do with the way people perceive themselves, then the labels are useful as long as they really do reflect ways in which people perceive themselves. Does anyone feel that the group we perceive ourselves as belonging to is always and totally conditioned by the perceptions of the powerful majority?

Richard Tuerk

>Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1993 13:13:33 -0400 (EDT)

>From: (Susan Garfinkel)

>Subject: RE: "European Americans"


one of the interesting things about the u.s. is that something like 80 or 90 percent of the population is descended from someone who emigrated to this country in the last 100 years (at least, i think it's that high- i'm trying to remember this from an exhibit that i saw at ellis island last week).

anyway, when i stop to think about it, it's sort of funny. we talk about "our forefathers" who wrote the declaration of independence... or maybe we can expand that to "forefathers and foremothers" who celebrated thanksgiving up at plymouth rock...

well, in reality, my forbears were busy doing some other stuff in the eighteenth century, over there in eastern europe. none of my grandparents were born in this country, though both my parents were. yet i, as much as anyone, accept this rhetoric of direct descent from "americans" who came before me. after all, i study colonial and nineteenth-century history at least partly because i think it will help me to understand myself, in as much as i am a product of, or at least fundamentally shaped by, the culture in which i live.

i bring this up because of the funny way that the term "white" works in this country. to be utterly simplistic: white people made slaves of black people. so that means that every person who is presently categorized as either white or black must bear some burden of the reality of african slavery in this country. so, to use the example of my own background, even though none of my ancestors had anything at all to do with the slave trade or the holding of slaves in the pre-civil-war united states, i am still affected by this country's system of racial relations, and given a place in a "past" that is not my past. this becomes even more complicated for people who don't particularly fit the designations of "white" or "black." again, to use my own background as an example, the reason that i don't have an extensive family back in eastern europe is because my many aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. disappeared during the holocaust, victims of a racial genocide because they were jewish, and were not the german (and too many other european's) version of "white." there is was decidedly not white, and here i apparently am.

i'm bringing this up as a problem, and i don't have a solution to it... certainly, i recognize that i benefit from all sorts of privileges in this country from falling into the category "white," and i'm not at all happy about the inequalities that continue to exist here. i wish we could stop labelling people by race altogether, but as long as it happens discreetly and behind the scenes, we need to keep bringing the problem out and into the open.

on the term european american: i wonder if one thing that does unite most european cultures was not some sort of experience of the renaissance... but i'm not enough of a european historian to know if the influence was pervasive enough to have marked the culture in different european countries sufficiently. another way to look at it might be: do these countries share a similar cannon of historical and cultural icons?

the argument about african american, i believe, is partly that people from many different places in africa were brought together under slavery and the resulting culture was a blend of many more particular african cultures and various "american" influences, such as the english language and christianity. so that african american culture is a unique thing in and of itself. i'm not sure there is really a parallel for "european american" culture in that sense, that is distinct from plain old mainstream american culture.

the one benefit of terms like african american and european american is that it attempts to group people by the communities they come from or identify with, which is perhaps a better operating premise than to label people by "race," which is an equally fictive term. of course, a whole continent is not a community... on the other hand, studies of immigrants do show that they often form alliances in the new context across what would have been strong group barriers back in "the old country." (just the other day, a friend was telling me that his romanian jewish grandmother only learned to speak yiddish after her family came to the u.s.)

susan garfinkel

university of pennsylvania

Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1993 01:24:52 -0600

From: IN%"" 21-JUL-1993 22:27:07.39

I've been watching the debate here about how we should refer to ourselves and others, and it seems as though in academia, you have the luxury of indefinitely debating the issue. I'm a high school journalism adviser and I want my students to be sensitive to and aware of all ethnic experiences in this country, but unfortunately, for our purposes, there does need to be a consistent and accurate way to refer to certain groups of people. I completely agree that one should avoid lumping people into one hyphenated ethnic desgination, and refer to them as Vietnamese or Mexican or Bosnian. But the terms Hispanic, Asian and African-American (as inaccrate as they may be) are part of the media language.

My question is how would you recommend journalists be accurate, while at the same time brief in terms of ethnic designations?


Matt Taylor

Graduate Student

Ball State University

Muncie, IN


>Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1993 20:12 -0400 (EDT)

>From: ENGCLEWT@EKU.BITNET <Rick Clewett>

>Subject: on our relation to our ancestors

>To: h-amstdy@uicvm.BITNET

Susan Garfinkle's post of Wednes., July 7th on how most of our ancestors were not involved, either for better or worst in the making of what has become our foundational (quasi-mythical) history was very interesting. Her point is well-taken, but it sparked in me another very odd sensation. I have ancestors who came over from Wales at the beginning of this centuries, ancestors who went from France to England in the seventeenth century and then to America in the nineteenth, and ancestors who have lived in Kentucky, more or less, for over two hundred years (supposedly Daniel Boone is my sixth great uncle, or something like that); my wife has ancestors from Sweden, Poland, and Germany. Her mother's family knows of at least 37 relatives who died in Hitler's death camps.

I don't have any sense of any of these people being real except for those about whom I have actually heard stories. And I have absolutely no sense of being more of an American or being closer to American history because I am putatively distantly related to someone like Daniel Boone. No, that's not quite right. The thought of a connection with Daniel Boone may make me feel more implicated in American history, but it is mostly as an historical resonance or echo of my sense or fear or worry about how we have treated (are treating) others.

In the case of Daniel Boone, the question would be the Indians. This summer I've been teaching a course of contemporary Latin American fiction and the shadow of a malevolent American influence/presence keeps intruding. When I was in college, of course, it was Viet Nam. (I remember hearing a copter flying overhead sometime around 1971 and ducking: I identified that closely with the people I could imagined being straffed by U.S. planes in Nam. Not that I sympathized with the North Vietnamese or communism. I didn't and that wasn't the point.)

In other words, more of my sense of identity as an American than I could wish is tied up in worrying about what our collective impact is on others. If one is thinking in this admitted partial vein, having roots that go far back in U.S. American past is not necessarily a source of comfort.

The important thing, obviously is how we act now, individually and as a polity.

Rick Clewett

Eastern Kentucky University


Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1993 01:49:25 -0600

Long message from: Tomo Hattori =

I agree that my claim that European Americans have "always" had the luxury to pass into the dominant culture as whites is not true. It has not always been the case. The planned suburb of Westdale next to my university in Hamilton, Ontario was originally built with a restrictive covenant that typically read that none of the lands "shall be used, occupied by or let sold to Negroes, Asiatics, Bulgarians, Russians, Serbs, Rumanians, Turks, Armenians, whether British subjects or not, or foreign-born Italians, Greeks, or Jews." These racial restrictions were not struck down until 1951 following considerable litigation by the Canadian Jewish Congress and civil liberties activists. As Tuerk observes of his own experience, the people living inside restricted neighbourhoods were Euro-Americans as were the people living outside.

My point is that even in exclusion, there often seems to be the case in North America of a hierarchy of relative "whiteness," and of relative degrees of acceptance or rejection by the dominant culture (whether one describes this as Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, Western European, or just "white"). The restrictive covenant I have quoted as an example is typical of a kind of racial ordering that goes on in North America, in the case of the above quoted covenant, from most undesirable to least undesirable. The "Negroes" come first, followed by "Asiatics," and then a trail of specified Eastern Europeans. (I'm not sure why they are in that order.) Italians, Greeks, and Jews seem to be gaining some acceptance around this time (first decade of the twentieth century) in Hamilton since only the foreign born are excluded.

What I find about the wording of this racially restrictive covenant that touches up our discussion is how even then, the discriminated Euro-Americans, even in their exclusion, were still conceded by the racist dominant Euro-Americans as having distinct cultural and national identities. Not much thought was given to the diversity of the "Negroes" and "Asiatics." The concept of "Euro-American" as an inclusive term for all Americans of European ancestry would have been met with derision by the dominant Northern and Western European Americans who would have shuddered at the prospect of being lumped into the same category with the "inferior" Southern and Eastern Europeans.

The discomfort registered on this list so far about the term "Euro-Americans" (as far as I have been following it) comes from members who are Americans of European ancestry, but do not identify themselves as European Americans. Julie Eulenberg writes: "To suddenly have to describe myself as Euro-American would be as silly as simply saying 'mutt' or 'Heinz 57' which are both used deprecatingly." Richard Tuerk writes: "Even though I am called an Anglo, I certainly do not consider myself an Anglo. None of my ancestors ever lived in England." There has been some resistance to incorporate the concept of majority/minority relations into the makeup of the concept of the "ethnic group" despite the fact that this idea has been around for some time (see Wsevolod W. Isajiw, "Definitions of Ethnicity" Ethnicity 1, 111-124: 1974). However, Eulenberg and Tuerk seem to be making particular cases for the specificity of their ethnic identity within the European American constellation by pointing out their resistance to the dominant European American culture. I find that ethnic identity generally develops around the way people perceive themselves in distinction to other groups. In order to perceive yourself you have to have some other person to compare with. Thus I find European Americans who insist that they're not Anglo, or not dominant cultural, more or less making the same gesture as people who say they are African American, Hispanic American, or Asian American (meaning largely that they are not American American, which is to say "white" or dominantly European American.)

The appeal by cultural pluralists and assimilationists that all the intransigent minorities should give up and just become happy plain old hyphen-free Americans is a red herring. It was the people who first claimed to be simply American who actively resisted the incorporation of Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans into American society through extermination, enslavement, and racially discriminative laws concerning immigration, employment, and voting. America's non-white minorities have generally never resisted becoming American but the dominant elements of American society have always resisted becoming Native, African, Hispanic, and Asian.

Tomo Hattori

McMaster University

P.S. Is anyone aware of e-mail discussion lists that deal specifically with the concerns of a particular ethnic group such as African, Hispanic, Native, or Asian American?

Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1993 19:02:23 -0600

From: IN%"" "R. CHATTERJEE" 22-JUL-1993 12:26:00.28

My recommendation is that if the terms Hispanic, Asian, and African-American (and Native American) are part of the media language, then so should European American. The cultural cringe on the part of European Americans to this proposal should be redirected towards an inquiry as to why the other terms for ethnically delimited Americans is acceptable to us today. Another possibility is that journalists use no ethnic markers at all and simply refer to quoted and named individuals by nationality (American, Nigerian, Brazilian...). Instead of tagging individuals by some vaguely racial "identity," why not refer to them by their platform or stance? Thus it's not African American Anita Hill, or Anglo American President Clinton but Anita Hill speaking on behalf of American women or President Clinton speaking in support of largely middle class white voters... Journalists tend only to use the tags of indentification that fit the story anyways so why not make the identification more clearly an aspect what the individual is or is saying about and within the context of the issue rather than tagging them essentially as professionally ethnic, male/female, young/old, able/challenged or whatever?

Tomo Hattori

McMaster University

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1993 00:30:29 -0600

from Matthew Lasar,

From: IN%"H-AMSTDY@UICVM.BITNET" "American Studies discussion list" 22-JUL-19

93 23:05:18.15

Andy Harper writes:

Matthew Lasar states that Euro-Americans, "no matter what they thought about each other, agreed that they had a right to usurp Indian and Mestizo land. ." He further claims that the term is better than "Anglo" because the latter is too narrow. Two points:

1. Isn't an overly broad term just as objectionable and useless as an overly narrow one? It is the "they" that concerns me.

2. Wouldn't Mestizos also be considered European-American under this scheme? I mean, if we are going to lump all people with European lineage into one pile, shouldn't we consider all those with European blood the same way. I do not know too many chicanoes or African-Americans of mixed blood who would like to follow the logic of this argument to its terminus.

Andy Harper is responding in his message to my defense of using the term "European American" in studying the history of the American west.

Harper is correct that technically all Mestizos and many African-Americans have European relatives. But this only adds irony to the historical picture. In the 19th century and to this day, most European Americans denied equality to *anyone* who they did not see as 100 percent of European background. Homer Plessy, the man around whom the famous *Plessy V. Ferguson* segregation case centered, was three quarters "white". Yet the Supreme Court used his example to rule Jim Crow segregation constitutional. Even today few people acknowledge the complexity of this matter. When the so-called Black/Jewish conflict resurfaced over the Lani Guinier debacle, how many people knew that Guinier's mother is Jewish? Guinier's European background was invisible to a culture which insists on seeing everything in racially and ethnically pure categories.

So while on a technical level we can say that many people including African Americans and Indians have had European ancestry, in terms of studying 19th and 20th century race relations, we have to remember that the concept of European American was and is as much an idea as a phenomenon. That's why I believe it to be a valid category for studying U.S. society and culture. True enough, as I said before, "Euro-American" as a concept can obscure inter conflict between European immigrant groups, but as a term for understanding westward expansion, I still consider it invaluable.

As James Gregory points out in his history of the Dust

Bowl migration, when Oklahoman farmers got to California, they were shocked that the dominant European American culture here treated them as inferiors, as if they were not "white". So the "Okies" created a "Plain Folk American" culture even more nationalistic than that of their wealthy landlords. Yes, there was inter-Euro-American conflict, but the solution for the Okies was to assert their membership in the dominant culture, to define themselves as the epitomy of it.

While I completely support the pursuance of an understanding of race and ethnicity in the United States which emphasizes complexity, I hope we don't create categories that, in their nuance and subtlety, obscure a basic fact: For 5 centuries Europeans have come to this continent, taken the land, and set up stark systems of inequality between themselves and non-Europeans. This unfortunate reality makes the term European American useful.

Matthew Lasar