“America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight–who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions.”
David Simon, creator of the smash HBO series, The Wire, wrote those words the morning after the recent election (davidsimon.com). And he’s right!
In fact, the President’s reelection has rekindled my hope in the reality of a new, a better America taking shape before our very eyes, a nation where finally e pluribus unum (“one out of many”) takes on reality.
I say this even though I voted Green in my concerns about climate change. It hadn’t anything to do with race. I lost that notion somewhere long ago in the junk heap of the past relegated to the landfill of oblivion.
As a boy, I largely grew-up as a street kid playing stick ball daily against factory walls that lined my neighborhood in waterfront Fishtown, one of Philly’s toughest bastions of crime, meanness and prejudice. Family and environment shaped my early perceptions and the result wasn’t pretty.
Joining the air force at 17 my world grew larger, as windows opened to new breezes. Many of my fellow airmen were black and, along with them, a then small sprinkling of hispanics. Accept for color, we blended in our mutual dependency on each other. I developed a close friendship with one of them and the race issue never came up. We were just plain salt and pepper. One day while eating in the chow hall, I heard rumors of the accidental death of an airman. It was my friend, Keith. He was 21.
As a college student following the end of my enlistment I had the good fortune of initially attending a Detroit school with a strong minority presence. Again, there were no differences, apart from the mix of personalities you would find across the general population. One of my black fellow students went on to executive status with General Motors.
Graduate school at the University of North Carolina changed things once and for all. We were all pretty much competitive academics on equal footing at an excellent institution. Color or ethnicity made no difference.
Teaching students across the years reaffirmed the same truths: that we’re all members of the human community, sharing in the elements that define us for good or bad. Among my best memories of teaching, particularly when I taught part-time in a local community college, are those of my black students who, in several instances, became my good friends. We shared so many of the same values that I once remarked, “I’m white on the outside, but black on the inside.” Our character, not our color, was what mattered.
In this hemisphere, vibrant Brazil with its many handsome men and women has long had the reputation of being a multi-racial nation. In America, while we’ve been multi-ethnic for quite some time, we’ve not truly been multi-racial and, sadly, much of our history is fraught with our mistreatment of minorities among us, with enslavement of blacks for the first 250 years and the necessity of fighting a civil war to end it, followed by a century of segregation in the South; genocide against our indigenous people, stealing their land, and confining the survivors to reservations; the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the legalization of discrimination in our immigration policies beginning with the early 1920s.
But the new demographics are fast writing a vastly different chapter in our history that promises equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream for everyone. Hispanics now comprise a majority of California’s population, portending their national status a few decades from now. Asians, the fastest growing minority, are currently 5% of our population, with their numbers doubling every ten years. By just 2043, or a mere 30-years from now, whites will become the new minority. America has always been about assimilation, except for race; that is, until now. Currently, 15% of our marriages are interracial. And, of course, our president is bi-racial.
In 2008, we gained our first African-American President. A few weeks ago saw his reelection, not because of his color, but because a majority agreed with his overall policies.
And let’s not forget that not only is America transcending race, it’s also putting aside sexual, gender and religious purviews.
This is as it should be. This is America at its best!