It is a common description of the United States as a "melting pot
" of diverse cultural and ethnic sources, and to a great extent that it true - Joe Biden recently noted that we are a country bound by an "idea", rather than an ethnicity - although some have described it more as akin to a "gumbo
Assimilation assumes the melting away of the specific characteristics that define ethnic identity, and begs the emergence of a ‘standardized’ American culture. We’re far too contrary as a nation, however, to paint such a simple and homogenous picture, and when we look closely at American culture, the strains of each of the individual ethnic groups that contribute to our collective noise remain apparent, however deeply buried they may have become over the years.
As Lin-Manuel Miranda recently put it, when describing the term "Latinx": “What you run up against are the limits of defining 32 different ****ing countries with one world,” Miranda said. “Literally, no word is going to make everyone happy.” Lin-Manuel Miranda on ‘Latinx’ ...rent F*cking Countries with One Word’
(IndieWire). Anyone who has spent any time in a mixed-heritage community understands this. It was that combination of ideas, and the furor over the 1619 Project
) that prompted this thought: What we are experiencing, around the world, but particularly in the United States, is the friction between commonality, diversity and amalgamation
. Here's what I mean:
I am about as "white" as one can imagine, and have roots in this country going back to 1609. Yet, according to my DNA test, I still have ~1% "Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu Peoples" in my heritage. Where it comes from, no one knows, but knowing American history (and genealogy) as I do, I have my suspicions. Forms use the more socially acceptable term, "Caucasian" (but as far as I know, I have no Slavic ancestry).
The point being, of course, that we should all be suspicious of claims of "purity" or "superiority".
It is often noted that in alloys
, strength comes from the mix: "Alloys are a mixture of a number of different metals and other elements, each lending their own properties to the compound." So alloys are, for example, generally harder than pure metals. "They are made up of atoms of different sizes, rather than being uniform. This means that the layers of atoms cannot slide over each other easily, making the whole alloy much stronger than any of the pure metals that the alloy contains in isolation." They are also less susceptible to corrosion. They are less brittle. These are good things, and generally applicable to peoples as well. And the reality is, the "typical American" is becoming more "multiracial" (even if they don't always know it). "Multiracial Americans are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S.—young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole." according to a Pew study
published in 2015. That Pew study also found, like Lin-Manuel, that "While multiracial adults share some things in common, they cannot be easily categorized. Their experiences and attitudes differ significantly depending on the races that make up their background and how the world sees them."
I have often said that "Black History" is "American History". They cannot be separated. So too "Native American" history, "Mexican" history, and "Asian" History. American is not American without all of those contributions. In that regard, I think it is imperative to understand those contributions, rather than dismiss or demean them, to understand what it means to be American, whether that is in the form of "critical race theory
" or particular heritage museums as exist on our national mall. We all grew up together, whether we were all together or not during the process. I literally cannot understand who I am if I don't understand who you are