--- Natalia Ilyin, Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture (2000), "Farrah and the Song Girls", p 100
This is one of the best books I've read in ages. Ilyin is smart, hilariously funny, and writes about deep, complex subjects in a deceptively simple way. Here's the quote in context:
Rita's best friend Doris who lived across the street, brought Rita big flats of frozen ravioli. Were they Italian-American? Who knew?
Rita only evidenced her German background in her attraction to Hummel
figurines. My friend Leslie, half Greek, knew no Greek, and my sisters andI spoke no Russian. My friend Claire was ethnically Jewish, now that I look back on it, but no one was exactly observing Yom Kippur over there. I think some black people lived in the house with the abundant azaleas, but I never saw them.
The people who moved to Las Gallinas Avenue came there without a past, and lived like stateless people. They came with no history, and made none.
In New York people routinely call you up and say things like "Come on over! My sister's here with her Serbian boyfriend, and our neighbors are going to drop by -- you remember them -- she's Ashkenazi and he's Sephardic." But when I was growing up in California, everyone in my white-bread suburb was making an effort to be identical.
When everyone is different, the pointing out of differences is merely description. But when everyone is trying to look the same, the pointing out of difference has the ring of prejudice. Once, when my European brother-in-law described some friend of his as a second-generation Hungarian, I remember thinking, "Aren't we beyond that yet?" as if it were only a matter of time until the entire country would develop cultural amnesia, and what a good thing that would be.