By John Olney
Web site: www.jolney.blogspot.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright February 10, 2010 all rights reserved by
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February is Black History Month. With only about two weeks of time past in the month, I noticed that there are quite a few references to Black History as spot-like ads on many TV channels and radio stations.
I got to thinking about this in terms of my awareness of other nationality groups getting as much, or creating as much, exposure for their respective sub-nationalities.
I say sub-nationality because first of all, if they were born here, they are therefore Americans by birth and the other heritage is derived by parents or /grandparents born in some other country. If they are nationalized citizens, then their birth place nationality takes a back seat to their new adopted citizenship. Thus, this latter category falls into the same definitions as if they were originally born here.
If you think about it for a minute, we are basically dealing with three primary terms here: racial, ethnical and cultural differences. Collectively I merge these three terms into one which I refer to as “heritage groups.”
But, I’m getting off my primary point, so let me get back to nationality heritage months. My curiosity prevailed so I began googling the Internet to see if any other nationalities had such a special designation.
Wow, I was surprised by what my search results which are shown below:
February - Black History Month
We celebrate Martin Luther King Day in January but we marked February as Black History Month
I’m not sure that we are being fair by allowing two months to be dominated by one sub-heritage group.
Black Heritage Month was instituted in 1926 when it was celebrated as “Negro History Week" during the second week of the month. This period incorporated the birthdays of “two Americans who greatly influenced the lives and social condition of African Americans: former President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass.”
March - Irish-American Heritage
Sure, we all like to wear a bit of the green and hoot and holler and devour corn beef & cabbage on St. Patty’s Day. But celebrate all month? I certainly can’t recall such dedication to the American-Irish citizens of our towns, states and indeed in the nation lasting all month. Certainly, I cannot recall seeing much Irish history spots on TV or hearing the same on radio.
The American Foundation for Irish Heritage wants to have the same national recognition as other ethnic cultural sub -groups; There are “lobby-type” groups who are trying to conduct a grass route campaign to get all the Governs to sign a proclamation marking March as the Irish heritage month. They claim that there are about 44 million Americans having a bit of the Irish in them.
May - Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month
In June 1977, congressional representatives introduced a House resolution to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. That initiative was quickly followed by Senate action. Then in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush designated the entire month as the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The selection of May was based on the following rationale (in italics):
- To commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843,
(We probably shouldn’t mention the events of December 7, 1941)
- To mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 because the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
(We should also thank them for the dyke system in the California Delta, and caves in mineral mining and California
It just might also be wise of us to also recognize some other important contributions by the citizens of Japanese ancestry to our nation such as during WWII when the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team composed of American-Japanese soldiers - the most decorated army unit of its size in the history of America - fought so valiantly while their parents, grandparents and siblings languished in internment camps and had their personal and real property carpet-bagged away from them.
We also need to recognize the Koreans, Vietnamese and many others of Asian ancestry in this celebration.
But what about the Phillipinos who have also accomplished so much in support of the US? They are not Asians but are Islander’s in the Pacific.
Where are we going to put the Aleuts and Eskimo’s? They are not Asians. Aleuts are Pacific Islanders though, just locate way up north. The Eskimo is neither Asian nor an Islander. What do we do with them, as both are the original inhabitants of lands now included in the USA? We might have a serious dilemma here.
September - October - Germans, Hispanic and Italians all claim this timeframe
The September - October timeframe is simply a poor marketing strategy by the three groups that are competing for public service allotments in the media.
Middle of Sept to the middle of Oct - German American Heritage Month.
September 15 to October 15 - National Hispanic Heritage Month
October - National Italian American Heritage Month
Well over 60 million claim German ethnicity. We all know how much they have contributed to our nation. We probably shouldn’t mention WWI or WWII even though we offered many in the military sciences following WWII to come to America to build our early missile and space technology programs.
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California were once part of Mexico and they sold it to the USA, albeit under duress. Cinch de Mayo celebrations are big particularly in the western states of the USA. Once again, like the Black Heritage Group, we have multiple months of major celebration for one heritage group.
Our current bountiful agriculture production would be stalled without their participation in harvesting and processing our food. The western and southwestern portion of our country represents the largest concentration of Hispanic descendants distributed between actual citizens and those in our county illegally.
This heritage group celebration coincides with festivities associated to Columbus Day. Over 5.4 million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1992. Today there are over 26 million Americans of Italian descent in the United States, making them the fifth largest ethnic group.
Do you recall from your history classes that the USA is named after an Italian? It comes from an explorer and geographer named Amerigo Vespucci.November - National American Indian Heritage Month,
Started in 1915 with one day in May and finally in 1990 President George W. Bush signed the proclamation marking November as National American Indian Heritage month. About 400 years after the foreigners first arrived, we finally recognized the original inhabitants of the land finally gained through the great Manifest Destiny.
Three groups we have not yet discussed for inclusion in Heritage Months are briefly mentioned below:
The British - They started the original 13 colonies and this whole thing about America rolling!
The French - They sold us the Louisiana Territory and gave us our great symbol of freedom - the Statue of Liberty.
The Russians - They sold us Alaska
What About Celebrating Being An American?
We have to put all this heritage thing in proper perspective. Please realize I have no objections what so ever to celebrating any heritage group. But number 1, all that are born on USA soil whether within the lands of the USA and it Territories, or sovereign USA government property within foreign countries, ARE FIRST AND FOREMOST USA CITIZENS until they decide to disclaim such. Number 2, almost none are exclusively of one sub-heritage group so how do they decide to align themselves?
I propose that all government literature, including school history books teaching our USA citizen and legally in-country foreign children about the USA, MUST USE any “HERITAGE “ designation starting with the key word “AMERICAN” to which would be added the sub-heritage category the author and/or individual wishes to discuss, or be known as.
It will takes some years, possibly a generation or two, to get used to saying the word “AMERICAN” first but it will finally happen and when it does, shouting out loud the slogan, “I am proud to be an American,” will truly carry the weight it deserves.
July - American Heritage Month
To further enhance, encourage and enforce the use of the “AMERICAN” designation first in naming heritage groups, I suggest a month long celebration under the umbrella of the theme, “I am proud to be an American,” using the 4th of July, our INDEPENDENCE DAY, as the kick off for celebration.
All month long, we should encourage our schools, and local leaders of our towns and cities to return to community action to celebrate being an American by developing interactive projects focusing on what it is to be an American! Bring back the school play, the local pancake breakfast, park softball, sack race, carnival, picnic day, the local parade, and all the other homey things we have let go by the way in our rush to payday gold only!
“Yes sir, yes, ma’am,
I am proud to be an American!”
(Oh yeah, I’m about 50% Portuguese, 40% Welch and 10% French)