Winners take what they want; losers take what they can get. In California, the losers are white people, now known, at least to some, as “European-Americans,” and what they can get is their own month, at least in an obscure school district. Everywhere else in the state — and, before too long, the nation — they get nothing.
In Stockton, Calif.’s Unified School District, the locals have succeeded in badgering the board into declaring April “European American Heritage Month.” Explaining it a bit dubiously in a recent issue of Asian Week, reporter Thomas Lee acknowledges, “It had to happen sooner or later.”
It had to happen because, as Lee explains, if blacks can have Black History Month and Asians can have Asian-Pacific American Month, then why can’t Europeans have their own month, too? The conventional answer, of course, is that it would be “racist,” as is just about everything European-Americans do on behalf of themselves. It’s swell for other races to declare entire months their own, but only bigots would want a month for white folks.
After much cogitation, the school board decided that having a month for European-Americans wasn’t really racist after all, which is something of a breakthrough in itself. Linda Whitlock, the “program specialist” in the district’s curriculum and professional development office, suddenly realized that “European Americans are a part of that history” and therefore ought to be “included.” How sweet.
And, indeed, European Americans seem to think so, too. Lou Calabro, president of the European-American Issues Forum, which defends European-Americans, smiles that “It was a brave thing to do. … It lets European American kids know they have a rich (ancestry) and that many inventions were contributed by Europeans.”
Well, it will do that, but whether they realize it or not, the European-Americans who pushed the heritage month through the school board have just signed the death warrant of what was once known as “white civilization” in California. They have agreed that they no longer define the civilization of the state and that they have now devolved into just one more little brick in the ethnic and racial mosaic.
If the European-Americans don’t realize that, Raymond Tom, the district’s Chinese-descended director of state and federal programs, does. “They’re recognizing immigrant groups, and European Americans are an immigrant group to America,” he says. “Kids think white is America. We have to understand that we’re all American. Asian Americans, African Americans are all part of America. We’re all newcomers to this country. Not one group owns it.”
You can see how Tom plans to make use of the heritage month. By acknowledging that European Americans are merely one more immigrant group, the heritage month forfeits the claim that America is a nation of European heritage. Having once forfeited that claim, the largely European-derived institutions that make American civilization what it is lose their claim to legitimacy. It’s more than “many inventions” that Europeans contributed, you see. What they really contributed was the whole concept.
We could start counting with the language that comes from Britain and its Germanic forebears, go on to the basic judicial and political institutions (juries, the right to bear arms, voting, the rule of law), education (universities, most of what we still study in the curriculum), and religion (Christianity may originally come from the Middle East, but it didn’t last there; the only place it’s ever endured has been Europe and its extensions). That’s just for starters. Inventions, in fact, — from airplanes and vaccines to electric potato peelers — are pretty far down the list.
The new non-European-Americans will no doubt keep the inventions, but why they would want to retain the European cultural, linguistic, political, educational, and religious traditions of a civilization and a people of which they are not a part is not clear. And the more they displace European-Americans, the less they’ll want to keep what their predecessors left. If European-Americans are no longer the majority in the state, they will no longer be able to define the civilizational framework of the state; and if they no longer define the civilizational framework of the state, other races and peoples will rush into the vacuum to define it themselves.
Nevertheless, Calabro does have a point. “Fifty-one percent (of California’s population)” he says “are non-European. We are a minority.” When you lose your state — and eventually your country — it’s nice if they let you take a month once a year or so, so you can try to convince the winners you’re not such a bad lot after all. That in essence is what white people in California will be doing from now on, and maybe some of the non-whites who have won will pay attention.