Sunday, March 30, 2008

Addressing the Issue of my Middle Name, Part II

About a month ago, I addressed the issue of my middle name (here). Since that time, someone has posted a response asking if perhaps "Kaye" is French, as in "que." Here was my reply:

Sigh. I'm sorry you apparently received that email. We see such smear efforts time and time again, my New Orleans roots met with cries of "Frenchie" much like the stories of Senator Obama's having attended a school in Indonesia and being Moslem. Some think the "Frenchie" issue may have been part of the reason for our neglect during Katrina - that, plus the fact that we have lots of poor and black folks who don't vote Republican. As is usually the case with such rumor and innuendo, there is a kernal of truth but it is presented in the worst possible light.

The fact is that, yes, while I am a product of a mixed marriage between a New Orleans woman and a young man visiting from the relatively underdeveloped part of the north American continent known as Mississippi, here in search of an education so he could improve his station in life, my family has not really even spoken French in three generations. Although New Orleanians take pride in their French ancestry, many Louisianians of French descent have served nobly in the War of 1812, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars, proving themselves as willing to offer themselves up in America's armed conflicts as any other true patriots. My grandfather belongs to a New Orleans VFW post (yes, we can - and do - have them), and, all rumors to the contrary, he does indeed salute the American flag (in that one photo, he was just distracted by a mosquito bite, which is also part of our culture). Flag wielding honor guards even lead Mardi Gras parades, although I do denounce the periodic efforts to undermine our Katrina recovery through the selective leaking to the news media of locals in their Mardi Gras garb (it is a proud tradition, to be sure, and one we embrace, but we question the way such photos - ones that might look silly to those in the heartland - are circulated, and we really want to know who is sending them to Matt Drudge). In modern NOLA, we even have McDonald's, WalMart, and Starbucks now right alongside our po-boy joints, Rousse's, and CCs, inspiring real multicultural pride with which all Americans, red-staters and blue-staters, can be comfortable.

To return to your original question, Glinda, I think my mother went along with "Kaye" out of a desire to honor my father's anglo-Mississippi heritage and that her own French roots were just not as big an issue. It's hard to be sure what my father thought, as he left us when I was young and returned to his native land of rural Mississippi, where he is now buried, so we can't get a definitive statement from him on this issue.

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