Is it possible for a white male like myself, of “fairly” sound mind and body, to know prejudice and discrimination?
Well, in comparison to people of color in this nation, I would say that I have the charmed existence, with all the benefits of this country at my beckoning.
I mean, really, I am a white guy who grew up in comfortable circumstances with parents who loved me — and by genetic accident I even had some biological advantage which I worked on to earn myself an athletic scholarship to a prestigious university.
(Believe me, it was the athletics that weighed far more heavily than the academics in gaining me acceptance to Boston College.)
Yet, even among white people there is prejudice held against one another — even if in the broader scheme of things it is minor.
I remember a story of how a woman of African lineage from the south went up to Boston for college, and after her first semester, she came home and — with minor astonishment — told her parents how up here there are white people who don’t get married because one person is a Catholic and another is a Protestant.
Then again, some time back, I was at a firm interviewing for a job, and behind the desk was another white guy who had my resume in his hand, and he began to enunciate my last name … letting every vowel roll off his tongue: …. “Mus … ca … to.”
He may have done this twice. Not sure.
So I said to him, “It’s Sicilian.” And he replied, something like, “Oh, yeah, I was reading this book about the Mafia the other day, and there was this section about how they killed this guy.”
But for sure it is there — even prejudice and division among white people.
As I have written in this space before, Easton had a fairly established Ku Klux Klan in the early 1900s, and since there weren’t many blacks or Jews to get after, Catholics sometimes incurred the Klan’s wrath. Nothing serious — maybe some property splashed with paint; and, of course, the occasional burning cross (actually, I heard of only two crosses being burned in town; if there were more, I don't know).
Religion could be something of an issue even as recently as 50 to 60 years ago in Easton. Not a huge issue — but an issue. If you click here you will be taken to a column, which ran here late August of last year, and which the issue is addressed.
If you can believe it, into the mid 20th century there was some weighty attitude that the primary ethnic tribes in Easton — the English, Irish, Portuguese, and Swedish threw at one another — sometimes literally.
Around 1999 or so, one of the long-time Easton townies told me a story — and I hope I recall this fairly accurately — of some of the early interaction here among the Irish, Portuguese, and Swedes.
It seems, as it was related to me, one ethnic group, already here, already established in Easton, was not thrilled when another group of people from another country got here. So when the new people arrived, members of the group that were already Easton residents, stood alongside the tracks at North Easton Railroad Station, and tossed rocks at the immigrants as they stepped off the train.
Not nice. So, that tribe, members of which had rocks thrown at them at the train station, got beyond the rude welcoming, and it started to make its life and establish its legacy here. And, wouldn’t you know it, when people from yet another country began to arrive in Easton, people from that ethnic group that had the rocks thrown at them, well, now they were at the railroad station and doing their own rock tossing at people disembarking from a train and eager to make a go of it in the New World.
How about that North Easton and South Easton thing. Really. Are you kidding me?
When I was a kid, living in North Easton was not considered to be much of a big deal in terms of it holding whatever element of economic prestige over South Easton. In fact, it was hardly there at all.
How interesting is it that when one developer was building a street and homes on that street in South Easton, it worked an agreement that those homes on that street would have the 02356 — that is, the North Easton — zip code.
And, by the way, I’m not knocking the developer, or the people living on the street that may or may not have wanted the 02356 zip code — I’m just saying that whatever impulse and motivation behind wanting that zip code is interesting.
For the record — I live in South Easton. And proud of it.
As for long-time residents of Furnace Village (a.k.a. “The Furnace”), which is, up and along Five Corners — and parts of which fall in both the South Easton 02375 and Easton 02334 zip code — they consider themselves something of denizens of their own community. Don’t mess with “The Furnace.”
About 20 years ago, my brother built his Honey Dew Donut Shop at Five Corners where now sits Walgreens. Early on, my brother became impressed with just how staunchly “Furnace Village” were the “Furnace Village” residents.
And it was as if, for many a person from Furnace Village, there was not much of reason to visit North Easton.
So, one day, not long after my brother opened the shop, a guy whose family went way back in the Furnace, was in the story buying a coffee. And he says to my brother, “Happy to have you here. You’re going to do great. We’ve heard about you Muscatos down in North Easton. Heard you’re good people.”
And, I’ll finish with this funny anecdote — one that expresses portions of the peculiar ties and relationship that so many Easton people, including myself, have with our wonderful community.
It was early in 1996, and I had just moved to New York City — and I was at a party in Manhattan.
Along with myself, there were two other Easton people at the party — my sister (there with her husband), and Chris Carnabucci, who grew up near Parkview School. Chris, an artist and furniture designer, who lived just outside of New York City, was there with his beautiful wife, Paula (really, you should see Paula).
Chris’s parents were still living in Easton, but they had moved to a condo in South Easton. Chris told me how he got back fairly regularly to visit his parents.
And then Chris told me — and, remember, we are in Manhattan, 200 miles from Easton — that though he visits his parents in South Easton, he hardly ever got back to North Easton anymore.
Some people might consider one making this distinction very unusual.
But, then again, we Easton people — we’re a different bunch.