• November 27, 2021

America has always been a magnificent mosaic

Last week’s coverage of the 2020 census results announced a reduction of the “white” population and the rise of what the New York Times called “Multicultural Americans”.

This view that a once homogeneous nation is finally becoming, inexorably, a beautiful mosaic betrays a profound ignorance of American history, while exposing the danger of our current kind of racial politics.

Our nation of immigrants has been a multicultural mecca from the beginning; The American experience has always been defined by the challenge of living with difference. The first Massachusetts Bay Colony, for example, was founded not by a unified group of Pilgrims, but by a wide range of religious and secular groups who often disagreed. The colony exiled Roger Williams (in 1635) and Anne Hutchinson (in 1637) due to their radical views.

In the centuries that followed, America continued to attract people with widely divergent views on life and community, not to mention skin tones and faith. Has any other nation given rise to more religious denominations, sects, and utopian communities? This has also always caused tensions. During the 18th century, some residents of English extraction, including the normally tolerant Benjamin Franklin, restless that German immigrants flooding Pennsylvania might be reluctant to learn the English language. The influx of Irish immigrants before the Civil War raised patriotic concerns, as did the arrival of Italians, Asians, Jews, and other Eastern Europeans during the 1880s and 1890s.

Each of these groups brought with them their own cultures, cultures rooted in centuries and even millennia of tradition. People whose ancestors had lived in the same small village, who had gone their lives without knowing someone who spoke a different language, wore different clothes, ate different foods, or had different beliefs than their own, suddenly found themselves living face to face with strange and exotic things. foreign.

Never before has such a voluntary multicultural experiment been attempted. Given the tribal nature of humans and our long history of warfare, it is not surprising that each of these groups encountered (and often expressed) intolerance and exclusion, though none suffered more than the enslaved Africans brought here in chains and the Native Americans .

The miracle, and there is no better word to describe it, is that our country finally found a way to unum is pluribus, creating unity while respecting the difference. This is the essence of American exceptionalism, which has never been a claim to American perfectionism. It describes our unparalleled success in transforming a flawed but wonderful resource, human beings, into a great nation.

Book shelves detail this achievement, but the secret sauce was captured in a short paragraph by William Tyler Page called “The American’s Creed.” Written in 1918, when our nation was trying to forge novel immigrants, as well as the descendants of Union and Confederate soldiers, into a force that would fight and die for it during World War I, it emphasized the universal principles of freedom, equality and justice. , and humanity “.

The promise was that regardless of one’s culture and beliefs, everyone would be treated the same. No society has achieved that ideal, but the United States has come closer than most. Tragically, powerful forces now want to erase this history and get rid of this secret sauce. Ironically, in the name of “fairness,” radical activists and thoughtful liberals seek to reject America’s multicultural history by dividing us into two made-up groups.

Even when they acknowledge that race is a social construct, they insist that all people of European descent are “white,” denying those people’s long-standing recognition of difference and acceptance of multiculturalism by identifying themselves as Irish Americans, Italian Americans, German Americans, etc. .

They drove vastly different immigrants from other continents as a unified group they call “people of color.” These powerful forces are also working to undermine the secret sauce that has held us together, attacking not only the principles of the “American Creed”, but also broader concepts of fair play such as objectivity, neutrality and meritocracy that have allowed so many enjoy the blessings. of freedom, making America the richest, most powerful, and most tolerant nation in the world.

This effort, driven by a zero-sum power quest that seeks to organize people by race and inexorably pits them against each other, is the triumph of ideology over experience. It ignores and denies the lessons of our past, the exceptional set of laws and ideas that our ancestors developed to invent a nation out of an ever-changing, ever-diverse, and multicultural people.

Faced with this historical amnesia, I pray that the old saying is true, that “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics.

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