QC-L Version 4.0

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Dear Kaci and everyone else,

My comments may never make it to your list, but everyone can read them here at my blog. I've also sent them to several other lists. I was respectful, though hate speech such as what you sent does not deserve respect.

As I write this letter, I am sitting in my office in the middle of Clarkston, Georgia a banlieue of Atlanta (a grubby outlying suburb) that is an immigrant mecca. We not only have Mexican Americans (Being from the Northeast I am used to Domincans and Puerto Ricans), but West Indians, and immigrants from Africa. It is not unusual to walk the campus of Georgia Perimeter college and pass women with hijabs (That's just the scarf, but it is a big scarf!) These are our students and less often our employees. It is not unusal to find students with Nigerian (probalby Yoruban or Ibo) surnames. I sometimes wonder how the Christian and Moslem Africans get along. They manage though. Last Saturday Rosalinda, the hired help at my schul, put out the food for kiddush luncheon. She speaks nearly no English. I don't know who among the synagogue elite speaks Spanish. I took French in high school. I got to use my French a few weeks ago with a gentleman from Cote D'Ivoire who was one of our students. Around the corner from the college, the Halal Pizza and Cafe blasts Arabic radio broadcasts from its loud speakers while East African gentlemen sit on the big cement porch.

I strongly suspect the future is Clarkston and Atlanta, but I like that, maybe because my past was Ardsley, New York. In Ardsley High School the cafeteria sold regular and onion pizza but no pizza with pepperoni. One third of the population was Jewish and usually did not eat pork. The school had the Jewish holidays off too. We probably traded other days off to get those.

If you walk in to PathMark on Central Avenue in Hartsdale (the municipality next to Ardsley), you can get Ronzoni lemon flavored angel hair (an Italian treat), spinach fettucine (all spinach not half and half), pastina, and other soup pasta and Pathmark has its own tomato puree for fifty cents a can because Italians, the dominent white ethnic group in Westchester county make their own red sauce. Farther up the road there are fresh mussels for sale at Turco's Fruit Ranch along with freshly ground parmesan and romano cheeses (No the stuff in the green can will not do! Most Italians who are serious about their food will only eat the freshly grated kind. You either have it grated in the deli or buy a six ounce block and grate off three or four ounces at a shot.) In New York you can still get the Hebrew Forward (Yes it's in either Hebrew or Yiddish) and El Diario (Spanish) and there is a rado station that specializes in nothing but foreign language broadcasts and it has been around since I was a kid.

I think whoever lives in a place shapes the culture and the culture changes, more often than not for the better. I couldn't get real authentic chili rellleno tacos and genuine tamarind bucket drink at Plaza Fiesta if Atlanta did not have a large Mexican population with a shopping mall of its own. Bucket drinks are ladeled out of large glass buckets. This is a lovely and civilized way to serve cold drinks. The buckets are probably no dirtier than the typical soda fountain and what you see through the glass is what you get. I adore shopping at the DeKalb Farmer's Market that carries ethnic foods for Atlanta's huge and diverse immigrant population. One Christmas I introduced my mother to moqua squash which tastes like a big cucumber on steroids but not one bit bitter.

As for hostility towards those of us who have been here longer, I don't detect it at all here in Atlanta. Maybe there is just too much economic opportunity. I suspect if one goes out to Hapeville where they closed the Ford Plant or out to Lakewood where they closed Fort McPherson, you might see some of that. Meanwhile, I like my big multicultural city.

Eileen H. Kramer

I also plan to send a copy of this to the folks who are really responsible for this piece of hate mail, and if you would like to see an original you posted to Secretangelfriends, well you know where to click. This is my blog, Kaci, and I'll post what I want here and your list ownership won't silence me.