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CELTIC-L  October 1995

CELTIC-L October 1995

Subject:

Re: Celtic identity

From:

John Murphy <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Mon, 23 Oct 1995 17:27:19 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (70 lines)

After scrolling through a week's worth of postings regarding celtic identity
among Americans, may I contribute my voice?  Unlike many who have deigned to
pontificate about the conditions of racism and the need for affirmative
action and the supposed "spurious" cases of reverse discrimination, I can
offer my experiences.  I'm a native of Los Angeles who was only born here
after my mother, a recent Irish immigrant, found herself having to leave the
East Coast city to where she had emigrated after finding herself pregnant and
abandoned by my biological father.  She gave birth to me here in L.A., long
before the days of our contemporary mores towards "single mothers"; I was
adopted and raised in a largely Latino, blue-collar industrial neighborhood.
 I'm very fair, and in L.A., believe me, my complexion is not the norm it
would have been in Ireland.
Anyway, this is why I have a longing.  I often wish I could be able to claim
Irish citizenship though my adopted status seems to certainly cloud the
process.  Anybody know of the alternate arrangements for a situation like
mine, where access to records and "illegitimacy" vis-a-vis my Irish
connection out-of-wedlock come into play?
 
 While growing up in the height of the "Great Society" and racial
preferences. I often resented the sobriquet of "Anglo" used (as in Spanish,
so into American English, at least in areas of Latino influence), and this
became a running joke among my classmates.  "I'm not an anglo, I'm Irish!"
 Out here, far from the ethnic Irish neighborhoods of NYC or Boston, nobody
really sees an American of whatever European descent othere than a--to use
the government classification--"White, of non-Hispanic origin."  I worked my
way through college and graduate school. and despite the fact that I was
often from a poorer background than the black, Latino, and Asian students I
taught, I was never offered the very preferential  programs in which I, as a
doctoral student, would serve as a writing tutor and instructor.  You see,
color of skin, not economic class, is really the determining factor.  A
student of mine was told to enroll in the university as a Cherokee; she was
1/32nd Native American, but that was enough to place her in the category, at
least for the bureaucrats and minority-student admissors.  I've taught in the
South-Central area of L.A., literally in the riot area of 1992.  I escaped as
the Korean-owned swap-meet was looted and torched across the street from the
high school where I teach; on t.v you could see the shops at the intersection
explode and I watched the National Guard roll down the streets for days after
we returned to work.  I earned a Ph.D. this year, after ten years of study
and that many of teaching and making a living at the same time.  Nobody
helped me.  My face alerts others  to an alleged "privilege" of my race, and
just two weeks ago I was denied a position because, as the principal
explained, I was a "white male;" she sympathized, because she wasn't able to
move up the school district ladder-- she too shared my color.  Despite my
years of experience and education, it all comes down to race.
 
I'm learning Irish after so many years because it gives me hope in this
dreary situation.
Just yesterday a Mancunian transplant asked why I was learning such a useless
thing.  Even in Ireland, she noted, it was useless, let alone in L.A.  I
defended the need for pride, for a linguistic birthright older than English
itself.  What link is there among these threads?  A search for what's been
denied to me growing up-- the same power to know how my ancestors spoke and
thought and perceived the world, and how this survived even, in an attenuated
form, down to me.  I live just two miles from where a little girl was shot by
a group of gang members.  My two sons are the only non-Latino children in our
neighborhood.  If I do not give them a sense of their identity, who else
will?  In a Balkanized city, pollyanish cries of all of us getting along are
nice, but the reality is that few in L.A. attend to their European roots with
the same avidity that other groups are encouraged to, whether in school, in
the workplace, or in the media.  That's why I'm trying to learn more.  In
this city, you're as far away from your roots as a Celt as you can get.  All
the best to all of you.  I'm not looking for flames, just putting my honest
views before many of you who don't deal with living in a barrio and working
in the inner city day in and day out, and still trying to take heart in my
own identity too.
 
 
J.L. O' Fionnain Murphy
Los Angeles

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