She Made Me A Believer, Almost

Erica Lee has made me a believer that America is a racist nation. I see her point from two different view points: 1. Americans still tend to dislike people they don’t identify with, and 2. There are a whole lot of different people in our country than we know about. We are a catch basin for all races.

When people associate racism in a hateful way I believe it is because the people we pick on don’t fit into our metric of people we admire and relate to. Another reason might be that we can’t relate to people who look radically different from us, namely blacks and Asians. They are so easy to pick out of a crowd and so easy to pick on that we tend to do it, i.e. pick on them. Ms Lee presented some interesting facts in her book “The Making of Asian America” that we should all become aware of. For instance the segregation of Japanese during WW II. I, for one, feel that the government made a wise decision to separate people who look so different from the general population during time of war with their country. I believe we saved these Japanese from a severe backlash of hatred by our white population. Ms Lee points out that the Japanese kept in the camps felt very different about their treatment. They felt that we should have treated them as loyal citizens which most of them were. What we didn’t learn from our history lessons was that the government deliberately treated them harshly. Never the less that period of history is over now and we must move forward. She wrote that after 9/11 a similar backlash against Pakistanis occurred against Sikh followers who could be easily picked out of a crowd. What surprised me about her timeline is how the United States created racial problems with our wars and then willingly took in refugees from those countries. I have not seen huge numbers of these ethnic groups in and around Chicago, but the numbers she gives are very large. Her description of the fall of Saigon at the end of the war cites hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese coming into the country, most of them undocumented. It didn’t end with Vietnamese because thousands of people from surrounding countries helped. Cambodians, Laotians, and Hmongs came as well. Recently, we experienced the need to do the same with Afghanis. With all of these people coming in from so many different places the cultural mix of the country is changing. The assimilation of so many different cultures, and languages will be difficult at best, perhaps impossible. Now, we also see an influx from South and Central America with additional cultures, customs, and languages. We also need a way to give these people work so they can feed and house themselves. There are just so many cleaners, dish washers, and grass cutters that we can occupy. One problem Ms Lee points out is that many of the people coming in are educated, but because of language differences they cannot find work that they are trained for. The result is that Phd level teachers, doctors, and nurses are finding work as truck drivers to provide for their families. It is sad, and the result is we have taken in too many people without any plan for providing meaningful work.

The assimilation of the millions of immigrants we’ve taken in since the seventies will take several generations to happen. As these new people change so will we. Together we will learn to love and help and integrate our new neighbors into a melting pot society. Perhaps by 2121 we will no longer be writing books about systemic racism. Or maybe the opposite, we will be writing more books about how bad it has become since the great influx of the twenty-first century.

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