Considered musings and random commentary.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
It's time for hyphenated-Americans again
Flipping through the channels, the local news station is offering a contest for the local kiddies... If they write an essay about their FAVORITE African-American hero, they might get to READ it on the air!
Exciting, except for a couple minor issues. 1) Every child that they used to illustrate the commercial was white (or passingly white... I have an old color tv). 2) The premise, although probably admirable, is detrimental on whole. I'll give you a hint as to why. ALL of _my_ American heros have just been American (although some were black / negro depending upon the time).
By stressing "african-american", those well-meaning ditsy fools are stressing seperation -- seperation by race rather than inclusion by nationality.
Hyphenated-Americans are a sad lot... they don't really belong anywhere. If you're American, be proud of it. If you have an ethnic heritage, be proud of it -- but if you're American, you're American. Either be ONE of US, or "go home". If you were born in the United States, and your parents were born in the United States, you are AMERICAN. If your GRAND-PARENTS were born in the United States, and you do not speak the native language of where-ever they were from -- YOU ARE AMERICAN. Either be proud of America and your citizenship, or you don't belong here. That doesn't mean ignoring your heritage... heritage is a wonderful thing.
My surname is Italian, so ostensibly, my heritage is Italian, among other things. My parents were born in America, in Massachusetts and New York. My father's parents were born in America. My father didn't speak a word of Italian -- I know more than he ever did. My mother's parent's parent were a mixture of French-Canadian (hyphenated, because there are two parts of Canada), German, and a little Irish. But once they got to America, they were American. They PRIDED themselves on being American. They WANTED to be American.
If you aren't proud of being American, you shouldn't be here. Go find your dream... if you think you're French-American and you're more proud of that, go to France. See what the French think about you being Americain-Francaise. If you're Argentinian-American (something I've never heard of), then you belong in Argentina. If you're English-American, please explain that one to me. And, similarly, if you consider yourself African-American -- more African than American, maybe you belong elsewhere.
America is a good place to be. It is THE land of opportunity. Only in America can a poor man study and become a doctor or a lawyer or a politician (going down the list of usefulness and value). Or become a business owner and grow a business so large they they require multiple accountants, employ scores of people, have a fleet of vehicles or a string of resturants. And the wonderful thing about it is, success is colorblind.
WE are supposed to be colorblind, although unless we're blind, we probably aren't. We are supposed to be unified as a nation, although, depending on your accent, favorite sports team, or current residence, we probably aren't. But success? Success is totally colorblind. Famous Amos. Auntie Annie's. Colin Powell (or Condoleezza Rice). Oprah. Tiger Woods. Sports legends by the score, actors and actresses, musicians... All of the greatest ones can't be thought of as being more "african" than being Americans who happen also to be black. That's what unity is -- we ARE all the same except for accent, eye color, hair color, skin color. I would no more associate a man for being black than I would for being a plumber or a butcher. It's the person who makes the person, not the skin color.
If you find someone who gets most of their "personhood" from the nationality or skin color, then you find someone who is limiting themself needlessly. No matter where your family stemmed from 5 generations ago, you are who you are now. You create your world through YOUR works, YOUR attitude. You change your world. If you get caught up in your limitations, that is all you ever will be. If you're a dishwasher and think you'll always only be a dishwasher -- you will. If you base your attitude and actions on your nationality or your color, and you focus on history or imagined limitations, that is where you still stay... limited.
For every successful person in America, there are thousands -- or millions -- who think that they have no options, no recourse, only limitations. If that were the case, we'd all be what our ancestors were. A couple would be kings (if they could kill off their siblings), more would be royalty, more still would be land owners, and some would service workers, artisans, laborers, and slaves. Portions would be lazy, good-for-nothing, shiftless, drunken wretches. Think about THAT for a legacy. If we had no ability to improve our lot, we would have nothing to live for. "One day, son, all this (gestures to a dirty alley) will be yours." Tell me THAT isn't a recipe for suicide.
My father was many things in his life. If he was limited by what HIS father was, he would have been a shoe salesman or perhaps a coal delivery person. If I was limited by what MY father was, I would still be in the service, had a couple of failed businesses, own a resturant (beer joint), and have no real life. I wouldn't have gone to an engineering college. I wouldn't have worked with computers or electronics. I wouldn't be managing a small group of developers. MY children would wind up stuck in what I'm sure they see as boring technical work.
Each of us has the ability, at any point in time, to decide that we want to be something different. Success is never guarranted, but it comes a lot more often to those who think that they can, and are willing to work for it.
I guess my message is, while it's great to remember how the past was, you need to get past it. While it's good to remember what your ancestors came from, it does not define what you can be -- you are not limited like that. While it's good to remember your heritage, don't let it define your future, and definately don't let it seperate you from your fellow Americans. Ignore or decry those who preach limitations, who create seperation, alienation, and pit one heritage against another. They're in it for their own benefit, and they have a vested interest in maintaining dissatisfaction.
Dang, I do go on, don't I. Ok, preaching mode is off. Return to your dull lives.
* In case you care: George Washington Carver, Satchmo, Sammy Davis Junior, Jesse Owens, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and perhaps a dozen others. Maybe two dozen.