A reader writes:
That LAT profile was not quite the "big reveal" concerning where this woman is coming from. I am 42 and grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan and attended Bishop Foley Catholic High School in Madison Heights, probably five or six years ahead of Rebecca. I did not know her, but was very familiar with the extended Mansour clan throughout primary and high school. There were always Mansours in my grade, the grades ahead of me, and the grades behind. The network of siblings and cousins was a force unto itself.
Southeast Oakland County, directly north of central Detroit, is the product of the white flight that peaked in the sixties and seventies. Whole parishes from Polish, Irish and Italian neighborhoods reconstituted and interbred with the "non-ethnic" Catholics in Oakland County as development boomed. In retrospect, it is amazing that I remember no ethnic tension whatsoever (other than occasional "Polack" jokes) in this lily-white environment. Few of my classmates were ever likely to encounter a black face; they were safely confined south of the mysterious and dangerous "Eight Mile."
The Mansours were the closest thing we had to "negroes." Some of them integrated better than others, but they were known as the "Arabs" and were outsiders in a precarious environment. I remember when my classmate's uncle was killed; the common understanding in our high school was that we was the kingpin in a drug deal gone bad. If anything, it increased the Mansour "cred" at the time (mid-eighties) when gangsta rap was first making headway in the suburbs.
The funeral was staggering, as the huge extended family took up the front third of the large church. It was the first time many of us realized that Catholicism was their traditional faith from Lebanon and not an attempt at assimilation. But the strength of their family as a community was unlike any of our own experiences as atomized modern suburbanites.
Rebecca Mansour grew up in a legitimate variation on the values mouthed as slogans by the Palin ilk (community, family, strength in adversity, overcoming the "haters," etc.). The amazing irony is that the undertone of the Palin rhetoric ("real Americans," homogenous, white and leary of the "other") is the very undertow the Mansour family swam against during her childhood.