Akron, Ohio native, Los Angeles resident and granddaughter of Greek immigrants Maria Nicolacakis shared her feelings on her Facebook page after seeing numerous posts from fellow Greek Americans on her newsfeed that bothered her. With her permission, The Pappas Post has reprinted her entire post and we thank her for allowing us to share her perspective with our readers.
Some of the Greek community are posting about black people looting and how they feel sorry for the police. I’d like to provide a little historical perspective from one Greek American to another. My yiayia got on a boat to America for a better life, and her sister survived a concentration camp and getting assaulted by Nazis so their future generations and Greek parea could live in a country where people didn’t perpetuate hate.
That means seeking to understand one another, not posting about how all the “terrible things” that the “mavri” are doing “too much.” Looting is not the answer, but focusing on it not only misses the point, it deepens the wound and perpetuates the stereotypes that are dividing us.
Let me clear: there is a time to celebrate the good cops–but it’s not when the nation is mourning the victim of some bad ones. We are supposed to act in a way that would make our yiayias proud. Have you forgotten your history? That not too long ago Greeks were targeted by the KKK, too?
Look, I get it, our parents and grandparents came to this country with nothing. They endured great pain and hardship to earn what they built. “How dare people burn it down?”
But imagine if our ancestors were black.
If my papou were black, then would he have been able to have the choice to stop working at that Youngstown Sheet and Tube steel mill? I wonder. If my papou were black, then would he have been able to save enough money to open his business, “Sun Bright Dry Cleaners”? I wonder. If my papou were black, then would he have been able to get that loan to buy the family house– the one that is still in our family and home to his half Filipino great grandson today? I don’t have to wonder. Because when my husband and I bought our first house in 2003, the original paperwork from 1953 revealed it, “shall not be sold to any person of color.”
We sold that house.
So if my papou were black, then there may still have been a Sun Bright Dry Cleaners, and there may have even been a house on Park Drive, but it would have been a much steeper climb. “See, he did it on his own!” you say. “I just don’t believe in handouts. Be accountable for your own actions and success.” How has that gone for you during this crisis? When circumstances beyond your control became an obstacle too great to bear? Have you managed it on your own or did you lean on your strong Greek community– one not completely stricken by poverty, violence, and broken homes? Did you keep that stimulus check?
Just wondering, because you don’t believe in handouts.
My papou was not educated. He was, however, accepted in white society, and that meant he could get a loan or buy a house in a certain neighborhood. He got what he earned from hard work, determination, and the privilege of being able to participate in a system built by whites. That’s what is meant by white privilege. White male privilege to be precise, because we all know our yiayia’s didn’t have the same opportunities, being women.
Speaking of women, let me ask you something. Especially you Greek mothers so irate about the rioting. How would you respond if a cop had his knee on your son’s neck for 1 second, let alone for 8 minutes and 46 seconds– the time it takes you to drive to your local Starbucks? Because I have a feeling your response would be a helluva lot more dramatic than taking some Nike shoes that aren’t yours. I’ve seen how you react when someone even remotely slights your prize possession, The Greek Son.
How would you respond if no one stopped your son’s slow asphyxiation and murder since he was Greek? Because I know it would be a lot more dramatic than breaking a window. And dads? If you joke about answering the door with a shotgun when a “nice Greek boy” comes to pick up your daughter for a date, I can only imagine your wrath.
If my son were murdered, I know I’d want to grab that antique Cretan machete I’ve seen hung on various Greek mantles over the years and pierce his murderer through the heart without an apology. And so would you if anyone ever laid a finger on your precious Yianni. Or your Constantine. Or your George. George Floyd. That’s his name. Ironic it’s a Greek one, huh? George called for his Mama when he lay begging for his life. George wasn’t perfect, but haven’t we all mourned the untimely death of a loved one with flaws?
It’s all unfolding like a classical Greek tragedy, so it should feel familiar. You’ve seen the theatres in Athens, created so individuals like you and I could watch how the consequences of our actions play out in society–safely. It’s just that now, we’re seeing the drama unfold in real life and it’s uncomfortable.
We’re experiencing the part of the play where the victim calls for revenge and justice. We’re experiencing the part of the play where the Greek Chorus arrives as a mechanism to amplify a message, so they chant and dance and sing in the city to elevate the action toward climax; to call attention to the theme.
The theme in this drama is that George Floyd could be any one of our Greek sons. The tragedy is that because of our hubris, we still can’t see it.
Featured image courtesy of Benjamin Finley on Unsplash
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