Monday, February 16, 2009

Racism and The Girl Next Door

Racism and prejudice rears its ugly head in unexpected places. In places where we don't even think to look. It often guides our actions, our career choices. It insinuates itself into the very fabric of our culture.

In teaching a unit on post-WWII modern and cultural history, I used the song We Didn't Start the Fire to broaden the scope of topics available for my students to investigate.

Feedback from one of the parents was a snarky comment as to why in the world was it necessary for her daughter to learn the 5Ws* about Doris Day.

Let me break it down for you.

There were two world wars. Both featured Germany in a prominent fashion. As a result, for the span of several decades, it was not all that fashionable to be German. Or a German-American.

The woman who shaped the ideal of the girl next door was born Doris von Kappelhoff. Various sources state that it was suggested to her to change her name "because it was too long."

I call bullshit.

It may well be that the length of her name was a factor, but it was also very German. In a time where many Americans automatically linked anything German with Nazism, to have such a name wasn't all that marketable. Especially in a time when US soldiers were coming back from overseas whistling to the tune of her music.

Today our hostility has turned its focus onto other races, other languages, other cultures. It doesn't change the fact that the dark underbelly of America's melting pot has a long history that in retrospect proves its irrelevance. Today, do we really care that Doris Day and Doris von Kappelhoff were one and the same? In fifty years, are we going to care that our 44th president had an arabic middle name? Who will have directed our hostility on then?

*For you non-academic types, that would be Who, What, When, Where and Why.


A Free Man said...

Well, I learned something today. Did not know any of that about Doris Day!

Anonymous said...

yeah, and I have read some people complaining about Obama as, I quote "His name is Hussein for christ sake". I cannot believe racism like this exists some times!

Irrational Dad said...

How DARE you talk about this in February?!?! These 28 days of the year (sometimes 29, I know) are for Black History. Save it until March 1st.

Uhh... I hope my sarcasm was noted.

The whole "Obama has a weird name" baffles me. I honestly cannot wrap my head around the "issue". "His middle name is Hussein." So what? My middle name is Jack. Does that mean I'm going to fly to Whitechapel and slice up a bunch of prostitutes?

Anyway, yeah, narrowmindedness sucks.

Mouthy Girl said...

I hate ignorant fucktards.

Kelly said...

My husband is from a suburb of Memphis called Germantown and during the time of Doris Day, people used to throw their trash out the windows of the trains that past through town because they thought the town was full of Germans.

So yeah, she was asked to change her name because it was German, not because it was too long.