There Never Really Was a Melting Pot, Was There

Posted on July 27, 2010


YouTube videos of the Brown Berets, a Latino activist group, that arrive at Tea Party and other white protests with  megaphones and tell everyone to go home to Europe are unsettling.  But aren’t the Brown Berets at least 1/2 European?  Aren’t most Mexicans mestizo?  Not necessarily.  But most are and the native heritage seems to be stronger than that from the conquistadors. This is all new to many whites.

A black man and a white man are debating race on TV.  The black man says that whites here have had the privilege of accruing the benefits from the backs of slaves.  But the white man interrupts to say “but I am from Sweden.”  Too bad.  You are here now and in living here, you are enjoying a lifestyle made possible for you by the sweat of slave labor.

People are finally talking and, yes, yelling about race.  But at least it is happening.  The only sad fact is that the different factions have NOT talked with one another long enough to realize that paradigms that provide the base for their belief systems are not even similar at times.  It is as if we are speaking different languages.  We cannot believe that we don’t know where each of us is coming from – we have lived in this country together for so long.  But this is the reality.

That man from Sweden keeps pleading: “My family were not even here during the days of slavery.”  He does not see that the black man is aware of him having said that and that he has processed it.  The black man does not see that the Swede does not fully comprehend what he is saying.  He is still hung up on his argument that his parents came to this country when he was little.  The black man has been living with his own argument for centuries and now he is telling the Swede and the world how he feels; what he wants.  It is not a message readily accepted by whites: blacks want reparations for slavery just as surely as the Native Americans have wanted a fair price for land stolen.

It’s hard to argue with someone who points out that what we enjoy now would not be here if the economic benefits of slavery had not made it possible. It will not only take a lot of thought and negotiation to attempt to reach a resolution of the issue but a lot of history lessons as well.  Schools have not taught that in recent decades.  There is a lot of deep anger in the black sections of our country today and we cannot ignore it. It will land in the streets.

And we cannot ignore the anger of the Latinos. Many don’t even care about citizenship, they just want the south west territories back.  They claim we invaded and took their land.  That is true.  My argument would be “And 1,000 years ago my people in Normandy invaded England.  Is it too late to undo that bit of barbarity”? But I am sure a Latino would tell me this is naive. Again, we need to talk civilly and not through bull horns.

We live in a loud, fast-moving and fast-talking herd of people these days.  It isn’t easy to get us to stop yelling; to stop moving long enough to try to listen and to learn.  The one truth in all of this is that these are tremendously complicated matters.  I could wish even as a white woman that it were as easy as giving reparations to blacks (how much?) and land to Latinos (how much?) and that I could pick up and pack up and leave all we have contributed and go back to Europe – where Muslims have made a quiet invasion and copped my culture.

But what will happen to the Chinese and the Indians and the Koreans, etc.?  Will they understand why they have to pay reparations?  Will they understand why they need to leave the south west and return to Asia?  The other minorities need to be considered as well as whites.

Finally, when has enough time passed to make it possible for whites or browns or blacks to extricate themselves from their bad deeds?  Blacks sold their brothers into slavery. Can we ever know which did? How long will it be before the Irish “troubles” really end?  How long before Muslims begin to understand the new lands in which they live?

Time and money are in tight supply.  The global problems are overwhelming.  It therefore behooves us to take additional responsibility unto ourselves.  We need to be not only more responsible about our own behavior; we each need, to the greatest extent possible, to go outside of ourselves and help others to be responsible about theirs.  Not all emotional and intellectual systems with which we came equipped were created equal.  God help me, I think I am heading toward a kind of Noblesse Oblige philosophy of working toward dialogue.  Ah, well, there are worse philosophies. And there are worse people than most we meet every day.  Most want what to live in peace.  That’s the goal.  The best we can do is keep our eye on it.

©On My Watch…the writings of SamHenry.  Registration Pending.