But wait, don’t we have a white woman and a black man vying to become president?
Yes, we do.
Isn’t that a sign of progress?
Not if they (and their attack dogs) spend time sniping about semantics surrounding the work of Dr. King. And by the way, in 1972, Shirley Chisholm tried to run for president, I think that was inherently more gutsy and revolutionary than anything either Hillary or Barack have done.
As I see it, the United States is a country where the residents of many different ethnic backgrounds continue to live in relatively separate communities and viewpoints that occasionally intersect, but for the most part are isolated. The only thing that seems to unify us is mere geography. Much like Belgium, I’d reckon.
Three years ago, I went to Palm Springs for my birthday and the flights there and back were quite memorable: At the risk of losing crediblity, I flew first class. (A frivolous expense, to be true, but it was my birthday and I’m a believer in that the flight that one takes sets the tone for the trip itself.) The flights from Chicago to Palm Springs and back were completely full in both cabins. As everyone knows, there is that infamous march that everyone has to do past the first class cabin. Never before in my life have I ever been shot so many dirty looks, which I interpreted as having a racial undertone to them (even if those who threw them did not have that intention).
The fact that I did, speaks volumes for the society and country in which I grew up: How many people out there know that there is a Black National Anthem? How many know about the black upper classes and their organisations and communities? They came about because there was and continues to be a schism between the experiences of white and black America, and there is little effort to address it, lo these centuries later.
As Americans, we like to believe that everybody is equal, and everybody is, but the hardest thing to do is to actually practice that belief. We carry the ideological baggage of our ancestors, whether we accept that baggage or reject it altogether, it is a part of us, and we have to deal with it.
That baggage is everywhere we look in this country: from the demographics of Detroit to those of Ellis Island. It is evident in the fact that there are hundreds of communities with Native American names in this country where the actual Native American population is zero and few people would be hard pressed to actually name the tribe who gave the community its name.
I mention this not because of guilt, but because it is important to actually look at our country, what it is, and how to steer it towards an all-inclusive future cognizant of its past. (I find the term “all-inclusive” a bit strange, personally, as it makes it sound like the US should be some sort of continental Club Med.)
Nonetheless, I hope this actually means that by my deathbed (2101, if I’m lucky), there might actually be a truly United States of America. Sadly, at this point in time, I would not surprise if the status quo persists.
Before I sign off on this, I’d like to leave with this very interesting incident from a post on December 20th by Expat Jane over at Where The Hell Am I? , which I think underlines the fact that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the reality of American history (read the whole post as well, and the blog, too–it’s excellent):
I remember being on the bus when a Korean man was talking to my white female coworker and was simply ignoring me. That was fine as he was drunk, but when he asked her if she was an “American”. She said yes and pointed out that I was American too. Do you know this man had the nerve to say “no, I mean an original American.” I thought that was funny because 1) the original people living on what is now American soil weren’t white people and 2) when you look at the black American population, the majority of black American families have been in the US longer than most white families. There are only a select few white Americans who can claim ancestry from that first wave of British colonists. I can’t remember where I read or heard it but basically to make this point a teacher in the US told everyone in her class to stand up. She told them if they had a parent who had immigrated to the US to sit down. She then asked students who had grandparents who’d immigrated to the States to sit down. She continued and the last students standing were the black students. Black Americans come from multi-generational American families, so that “original American” comment made me laugh ’cause that man was simply ignorant, but it shows how much the world at large has bought into the pop culture images that flow out of the States.