April 17, 2012
The Cajuns, Americanization of A People
Shane K. Bernard wrote about the history of the Cajun people to symbolize the changes that occurred in their culture, becoming Americanized, becoming like the Anglo-American establishment that has traditionally dominated the nation's mainstream culture, through the years. Americanization ranks as one of the most important events in the entire Cajun experience. Although today’s generation of Cajuns are fully Americanized, Bernard shows the long and often mentally brutal journey their ancestors were forced to take. He wrote this book to tell the Cajuns’ history that is often overlooked by other historians. These historians usually regarded the Cajun culture as unworthy of intellectual study and preferred more Americanized cultures to study.
Bernard states that the Americanization of the Cajun people began simultaneously with World War II. South Louisianans involved in the war were, among many things, ridiculed for their Cajun French dialect and last names. Other soldiers of the United States who often could not correctly pronounce Cajun surnames were known for changing the pronunciation; Hebert became “He-bert” and LeBlanc became “Lee-Blank”. Offensive names such as “Frenchie” and derogatory names such as “Coonass” were also used when referring to a Cajun soldier. Cajuns back in Louisiana were also criticized for using the Cajun French dialect; which traditionally is their first language. The State Board of Education banned French from being spoken in classrooms. The Cajun children were punished if they even asked to go to the restroom is French. They were punished for speaking their language in school. The boys were punished by being whipped with rubber tubes tied together. The girls' punishment was to walk around the flagpole with bricks in their hands. Radio and television were prominent ways the Cajuns stayed in tune with current news. Because...