I know I sometimes have a weird sense of humor. Incidents occur
and I simply see them from a crooked viewpoint. For instance, I
found irony in the death of Jean Stapleton within weeks after the
publicized Garcia versus Woods feud after the supposedly derogatory
fried chicken reference.
I doubt there is a Boomer out there who doesn't associate Jean
Stapleton with Edith Bunker, the character she played on All in the
Family for eight years in the 70's. Edith was married to Archie,
the world's most lovable bigot. Archie's politically incorrect
comments were not spewed with venom; they dribbled out of his head
among a sea of ignorance. The result - we laughed instead of
cringed. Truth be told, Archie would have given the shirt off his
back to his Afro-American neighbor George Jefferson. And as much as
Archie made fun of his son-in-law's Polish heritage, he didn't
hesitate to put a roof over his head and dinner in his belly every
night. When Archie's grandson Joey was born, he loved every living
cell of him. His nationality simply was not a factor.
Did we shoot ourselves in the foot in our modern-day attempts to
climb the PC ladder?
I grew up on a street that was its own mini-melting pot. At one
end of the block lived the Chu's. I actually never stepped
foot in their house, but it had nothing to do with the fact they
were Chinese. They just didn't have any kids my age. The Chu's were
often a topic of conversation in the neighborhood, but again, it
had nothing to do with their Asian ethnicity. It was about the
mystery surrounding the demise of their chain link fence which we
discovered years later was mowed down by my older sister while
learning to drive.
At the opposite end of the street lived the Gonzales family.
They had a daughter, Rachel, and a son, Charlie. I spent many
afternoons with Rachel and often her parents invited me to stay for
dinner when they got home from work. Rachel's grandmother lived
with the family and she prepared dinner. More often than not, it
included rice and beans. I didn't see this as a stereotype. At age
ten, I didn't even understand the concept of a stereotype. I knew
that eating rice and beans was a part of the Gonzales family's
heritage, similar to the meatloaf served at my house.
Across the street from the Gonzales family lived the Tucci's.
Every Sunday, the smell of Nettie's sauce wafted into the street
while we played kickball or whiffle ball. Nobody thought anything
of it. Seems every Italian family in our neighborhood had a
tradition of having homemade sauce and macaroni on Sunday. Nobody
made fun of the tradition. In fact, you would give your eye teeth
to be invited to a Sunday dinner at the Tucci's!
The Goss family lived next door to me. They had five children
and a stay-at-home mom. I shared many a dinner with them, often
macaroni and cheese and spam. When you had to feed five children on
one salary, meals were comprised of items that could be purchased
economically in bulk. I can still picture two or three gallon
containers of milk in their refrigerator at one time. We were a
single-quart-at-a-time household, so their refrigerator amazed
My heritage is Irish and German. Yep, my mom could make a mean
corned beef and cabbage dinner. Potatoes were a staple of any meal.
We sometimes said "Gesundheit" if someone sneezed.
We all lived on the block in harmony. We didn't see each other
as a nationality; we saw each other as neighbors. The Tucci's
weren't referred to as the Italian family, they were known as the
people with the best lawn. The Gonzales family wasn't referred to
as a Latino family, they were known as the hard-working couple who
both had jobs at the hospital. The Van Cott's weren't seen as a
German family, they were known as the ones who piled all the
neighborhood kids into their station wagon and took them to the
drive-in movies. I couldn't even tell you the nationality of my
closest friends back then, except I remember Georgia was Greek
because her dad spoke the language and her sister's name was
Aphrodite. But we didn't care, we just enjoyed hanging out
Have we become too hung up on being PC? Why is it now considered
ethnic profiling if we point out an association between nationality
and culture? Would Garcia have been equally insulted if Tiger said
he would serve him enchiladas and burritos?
Maybe we need to turn up the heat under our melting pot. Maybe it's
time to bring the stew to a rolling boil, letting all the flavors
mix and marry. Maybe it's time to just be friends and neighbors on
the block again, devoid of labels and profiling. Heck, maybe we all
need to sit down to a pot luck dinner after a rousing game of
kickball. I live in the south now, so I can bring the fried
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The
Mountain Times. She can be reached directly at