By Nayia Moysidis — When I was still in high school, I was up late one night studying. It was around three in the morning and I was miserable. My brother, a student in his third year of undergrad at the time, sent me a link that woke me up pretty quickly. It was a video of him and his best friend rapping in Greeklish, the cross of Greek and English, as they danced to a backdrop of a popular hip hop song.
Despite my then dedicated commitment to studying misery, the song was funny. There were blacklights, folk dancing, clever lyrics. But it was also heartfelt. How much pride must two Greek-Americans have felt to spend the time and effort to create verses, choreograph a dance, compose and edit a video? And all this at a time when most guys their age would have been out in Gainesville playing beer pong. I watched the video a few more times and got back to work, hoping I’d be fast asleep by 4.
A few weeks later, I returned to the video, curious and excited to see the Internet world’s opinions. The first few comments were laughter in Internet jargon. They were positive, asked questions, wanted more videos. I scrolled down further. I had to read it a couple times to make sure. “Dumb Americans,” the Greek font read. “Beautiful Greece? Really? Why don’t you come live here and see for yourselves. Until then, shut up.”
I was stunned. Americans? Had we lost our rights to even a measly half title of Greek? We spoke the language, knew the history, danced the folk dances, sang the classic songs. We attended Greek School for eighteen years, learned dozens of poems, celebrated Independence Days, spent 3 months every year in Kastoria with family and friends. We labeled ourselves as foreigners in the country where we were born. We accepted the stigma. We allowed ourselves to feel the pain of longing each time we’d return to the U.S. What else were we expected to do to earn their respect? When would we be deserving of even the tiniest portion of Hellas?
I remember asking my brother about the comments. I remember what he said.
. “Doesn’t it bother you,” I asked. “The things they’re posting? They’re calling us Americans. They’re saying we’re morons.”
He shrugged. “Who cares?”
. “What do you mean who cares? They probably don’t even know the songs we know and they think they’re too cool to dance the dances. They’re probably sitting in air-conditioned rooms in Athens while we go to towns with dirt roads and drink water from the well! Who cares? You should care.”
. “Nayioula,” he said, his calm tone and head tilt making me feel a decade younger. “If you’ve been doing all those things for other people, better not to do them at all.”
He was right, but then so was I. I shouldn’t have spent any time reading negative comments, and even less trying to create a counterattack. That was certainly not why I did the things I did. And responding would only feed the fire.
But I was right to be angry. We Greeks and Greek-Americans comment on other ethnicities. We wonder why they succeed, how are they so powerful, how they network so well. I’m sure their methods are a combination of elements, but first and foremost, they must not be attacking each other. We continuously shoot down other people, mock them for supporting each other, call them romantics, label them as weak, scold them for coming into the country and taking opportunities from natives. And above all, we can’t stop bickering with one other long enough to create a united front… about anything.
But beware: If we continue to attack each other, others won’t have to come in and fight us. We’ll have done all the dirty work for them.