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For the last few years, John Oliver's HBO series, "Last Week Tonight" has been one of my favorite TV shows, but it was dealt a blow by the pandemic which forced the program to shed its studio audience for the duration. This resulted in Oliver beginning each show by unnecessarily reminding us he was still appearing in front of what he calls "the white void." Enough already. Saying you're still doing it lets us know you're aware the people you're talking to are regular viewers.

But that's a trivial matter. What's annoying is that during the pandemic, Oliver's program has become a lecture series, and the host often is annoyingly preachy, so much so that on three occasions I stopped watching several minutes before he finished.

His June 6 episode found Oliver at his worst, though I put most of the blame on his writers. Still ... I thought Oliver was smart enough to notice the hypocrisy that finds its way into several of his sermons.

THE MAIN STORY of this particular program was a history lesson on Asian-Americans, and why we shouldn't lump under one label all people who trace their ancestors to a country in Asia. As I seldom, if ever, use the label, I did not stick around until the end of his presentation. If he showed some self-awareness after I tuned out, I apologize.

Oliver seemed to be making an obvious case for differentiating between people from India, China, Japan, Korea, etc., which makes sense, but while doing it, he continued to refer to descendants of European-Americans as "white people," and probably, as most people do, referred to descendants of African-Americans as blacks (often capitalized in these politically correct times).

My ancestors came from Ireland and Russian-occupied Poland, so my gripe is that if Oliver is so concerned with Americans whose ancestors came from various Asian countries, perhaps he — and everyone else — should stop lumping together all Americans who can trace their roots to various European countries.

ALL "WHITE PEOPLE" are not alike. Oliver and his writers may be unaware of this, but at the turn of the century — the 19th to the 20th, that is — long-time United States residents resented and differentiated between immigrant groups from Europe. Italians, in particular, were given a rough reception in the United States, and were considered by many to be members of a separate race.

Poles and other immigrants from Slavic countries were considered inferior, and, like Italians, Jews and blacks, usually formed their own communities within the cities in which they settled. I grew up in Solvay, New York, just outside of Syracuse, and our village never had more than 9,000 residents ... yet we had a Polish neighborhood and an Italian neighborhood. Austrian immigrants were prominent in Solvay, and, in our ignorance, were often considered to be Italian. We also had many Irish-American residents.

Poles and the Italians did not get along. While Solvay had a Catholic church — St. Cecilia's — many Poles went the extra mile into Syracuse to attend a Polish-dominated church (St. Brigid's, as I recall; later named St. Brigid and St. Joseph), while many Italians attended St. Peter's Church, also in Syracuse. If these residents of Solvay in the first half of the 20th century knew they were grouped together under the "white people" label, they'd either laugh hysterically or start punching each other, like the good old days.

I LEARNED a long time ago there are huge differences between the Irish, the Polish, the Italian, the German, the English, and the rest of the "white people" who settled in this country, and those differences were passed on. And while our melting pot may have blended several of those differences, it has not made all American Caucasians homogeneous.

And despite the popularity of the phrase, "white privilege" does not exist for many "white" Americans. And, for the record, none of us is actually white. I'm more a pink-tinged beige, which makes me a person of color, to invoke one of the worst phrases to become popular during this crazy period. And, again, to be persnickety about it, even if my skin actually were white, that would still be a color. And if you're going to use that asinine phrase, then please describe to me the color you have in mind in for people from Japan, China and Korea. Certainly you don't mean yellow.

OF COURSE, it's okay to use the word "black." That means Black Lives Matter isn't considered racist, but a group called White Lives Matter would raise alarm. The reason is understandable, but doesn't fully justify the efforts of Black Lives Matter or its supporters, who, like many well-intentioned people, often do more harm than good. In this case, they are demonizing those damned "white people." This fosters resentment, not understanding. Some want to make all "white people" feel guilty about slavery.

Sorry, but while I believe slavery was evil and unjust, I don't feel guilty about what happened in this country. African blacks weren't the first people enslaved, and they weren't the last. It's much too late to assign blame for something that happened in this country more than 150 years ago, especially when most of the "white people" in this country are descended from people who arrived here after slavery was abolished.

My ancestors are among those who came to America in the mid- to late-19th century. They came from Ireland and Poland, and they had serious problems of their own. My Polish grandparents came from a part of their country that was ruled for a century by Russia. (Other parts of Poland were ruled by Austria and Prussia.)

My maternal grandmother was a McLaughin. Her grandfather came to the United States from Ireland after two of his young children starved during the potato famine. His third child, left behind with his mother until his father settled in Central New York, soon died. But Ann McKinney McLaughin sailed to America and joined her husband, James, on the 40-acre farm he purchased near Skaneateles. They had eight more children, and he became known as "40 Acres" McLaughlin.

HAVING SAID all that, I'm well aware blacks in this country perhaps have the biggest complaint when it comes to their treatment at the hands of fellow Americans. I hedge only because I disagree with President Biden and others who have called slavery America's original sin. The actual original sin was the way European settlers stole land from the people who were here long before they arrived.

These people have worn many labels over the years — Indians, American-Indians, Native Americans, and, recently, indigenous people. The thing is, like every other group, our indigenous people are not alike. There were — and are — significant differences from tribe to tribe, just as black Americans can trace their history to various tribes.

And don't get me started on the differences between the Catholic and Protestant Irish.

However, to me, it's significant, and troubling, that blacks were the only people excluded from participation in the most American of sports — baseball, and the presence of black players on college football teams was at the heart of some of the most shameful incidents in the history of that sport.

Maybe the nation's guilt over the treatment of our indigenous people was responsible for the acceptance of Jim Thorpe and others on major league baseball rosters long before Jackie Robinson came along. (And don't talk about Fleetwood Walker; he played in the 19th century and is a whole different story.)

ANYWAY, it seems there's a lot of effort being made to educate us in the history of certain Americans, with the intent to make us more aware and understanding, but this effort is being made by people who continue to stereotype the majority of our citizens, and, perhaps unintentionally, unfairly shame them. Unless, of course, these "white people" associate themselves with LGBTQ or LGBTQIA, which entitles them to be proud.

For those who've managed to avoid hearing about those groups, the letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex and asexual. (I don't know if this is serious, but I did see another alphabet soup group called LGBTTIQQ2SA, which looks like a computer password, but would be dismissed as "weak" because it has no lower case letters or symbols.)

I think goal of all LGBetc groups is to be viewed equally and treated with respect, and I certainly can't quibble with that. But just as I believe Black Lives Matter would be better named All Lives Matter or Our Lives Matter, the alphabet soup organizations won't win me over until they come up with a better name or add H, for heterosexual. In the meantime, they're asking for inclusiveness by excluding the major segment of our population.

As a lifelong Democrat and one who wished long and hard for a Joe Biden victory last November, I take issue with the man for calling the United States a racist country, while claiming that our recent spree of mass shootings was un-American. How can you reconcile those two statements? Also, I don't agree with people who talk about systemic racism. I believe almost all the incidents that have led to this conclusion were due to the actions of individuals, and that often those actions were caused by fear, not hate.

In any event, life is too complicated for sweeping generalizations. I think it's fairer to say the United States, like it or not, is a country that allows people to think and act in ways that often lead to tragedies. One thing we love most about the United States is the same thing we criticize when these tragedies happen. We can't arrest someone just because we think he or she is capable of committing a crime. Yes, in some cases there were warning signs that probably should have been addressed.

Okay, this rant began with John Oliver's program, and that's where I will return. If we need to be lectured about Asian-Americans, and how nationality is more important than race, he and many others need to be lectured about how wrong it is to simply stereotype a large and extraordinary diverse group of European-Americans as "white people." If that isn't racist, nothing is.

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