As I write this, I’m sitting in a Greek restaurant, across from a Thai joint, down the street from an Italian place. There’s a taco truck in the parking lot, a German Catholic monastery down the road, not far from the Amish craft store.
This place is owned by real Greeks (that’s why the food is so good). But a hispanic guy is the manager and several of the workers are young hispanic girls. There’s a white family in here, a few black people, an Asian couple with a two-year-old in a Ninja Turtle cape, a mixed-race couple (she’s black, he’s hispanic-looking). At the school where I did a reading program this morning, there were hispanic moms and dads, quite a few Asians, black people and a growing number who were hard to pigeonhole, racially. Black dads with white kids, Asian dads with hispanic kids, white dads with kids of every color.
It’s easy to see a time coming when race will not only not matter in this country — it will be impossible to determine. If America was designed to be a melting pot (and it was) it’s working. With many old racial barriers down and others falling, you can see that at some point, looking at a person, we’ll just see a person, not a black, white or brown person.
I’m looking forward to that day, blessed to see it dawning.
I’m a white guy, no less an immigrant than any of them. My people fled Scotland and Germany in the 19th century, escaping war and looking for religious freedom. The Native Americans have been here the longest, but they became refugees in their own land and suffered like few other immigrants have suffered. The black people’s ancestors likely were brought here as slaves and have fought for centuries to fully win their freedom. The hispanics are part of a wave of immigrants that has been waxing and waning for decades, but some of them have deep roots here as well (the southwest was, in fact, once part of Mexico).
War and economic opportunity have always driven immigration to this country. They still do. Now people come fleeing drug and gang violence, religious persecution, relentless poverty. They come looking for a place that’s peaceful and prosperous, where they can work hard and be rewarded for it. They want what Americans have always wanted: to be able to put their babies in safe beds at night, send them to good schools and give them a life that holds the promise of better things.
That has, by the way, always been the strength of America. People with good ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit have made this country what it is — prosperous and peaceful and cutting-edge.
We have a right, and a responsibility, to make sure immigrants — whether they’re refugees fleeing war, religious persecution or violence, or just brave people looking for economic opportunity — come here in peace and good faith. I’m all for making that process rigorous in a volatile and dangerous world. But it can’t be perfect.
Remember, the most costly act of domestic terrorism in our history was perpetrated by a white guy named McVeigh.
The solution to a dangerous world is not to shut the borders. Beside the fact that those who wish us evil will likely still find a way in, we must remember what America — the idea and the reality — means to the downtrodden in this world. The United States has always been a refuge for those who’ve lost homes, families, neighborhoods and livelihoods to that dangerous world. We remain, for many, the “last, best hope.”
What’s the answer? America is the answer. It’s important that we remember that, remain who we are — and elect leaders who understand and cherish that.