I’ll never forget the first time I heard someone mention WASP and realized they weren’t talking about those bee-like creatures who sting and are really scary. I was quite young and when the acrostic was explained to me I realized I was still lost. I only understood what one of the four words meant. WHITE ANGLO SAXON PROTESTANT. Ok. I thought I got the WHITE. The other three, forget it.
I’m guessing everyone has their own story of how they came to discover the identity of their family, skin color, racial background, national identity, religion, etc., but it isn’t something that comes very intuitively. These are all categories that require some degree of learning and context.
As the years went by I learned a bit more. Anglo Saxon in my mind just meant English or British and I didn’t get the difference between those two at all, but at least I had a bucket into which I could put Anglo and Saxon.
Protestant? That was a bit harder. We went to a different church building (as if we ever went) than the Catholics did and we could eat meat on Friday and if we had a cross hanging in our home it wouldn’t still have Jesus hanging on it. And our ministers wouldn’t wear those long dresses or black clothes during the week with a white thing called a collar.
But so what? What really mattered was discovering what this meant to others. Some seemed very proud of being WASPs, like attainment of sorts, and somehow superior to other categories. And there didn’t seem to be variations of it. Never heard of WASC or WHITE ANGLO SAXON CATHOLICS. OR BASPs. BLACK ANGLO SAXON PROTESTANTS.
I could go on, but you get the point. What’s the big deal? For my Grandmother is was a huge deal because she was DAR (more initials) or Daughter of the American Revolution and even an elite one because she was also a DAM, Daughter of the Mayflower. That’s about as close to royal pedigree as one could have as it was explained to me in Elementary School. My blood must be red white and blue.
Now I know that WASP was referring to a certain combination of Race, Heritage, and Religion which somehow meant I had hit the jackpot. I was privileged. Over time I came to discover that lots of people didn’t like WASPs and the subtleties and nuances surrounding the issues weren’t going to go away-certainly not anytime soon if you read the same newspapers I do.
So today I decided to bring in a special guest. She is more white than me. She is way more English than I am and she’s worked in the City in London and on Wall Street in Manhattan with names that look exactly like the ones on your checking account. Privileged indeed. Born English. Raised in Cambridge. Mother of 3. Miss Julia Kate Nand. Welcome to Church Hurts And.