Sunday, July 21, 2013

PC and the USA - 21st Century

For centuries, immigrants have come to America to seek the "American Dream" of a better life and a place where they were treated as equals amongst the population. This dream has been fulfilled by many people, we have all heard or read the stories over the years of the "poor immigrant who made good" in the United States.

 How we identify these individuals has changed over the years. In particular, early immigrants would be identified by their country of origin without any reference to being American, they would simply identify themselves and be identified as, say, Irish. This slowly transitioned into the hyphenated version of Irish-American, especially for follow on generations, while the ancestors would still be identified as Irish.

 This type of identification would,and does, imply that there is an inherent trait or characteristic of these individuals based on the country of origin of their ancestors. And this type of identification leads to some serious issues.

The most important issues that this identification creates, just by its own existence, are racism and discrimination.  When we hear that someone is Irish-American, or Iranian-American, or African-American, we subconsciously attribute certain attributes, attitudes, and behaviors to that individual, simply because of what we call them.

The stereotypical view of Italian-American is that they must be part of the mob. An African-American is often assumed to be part of a gang or a drug dealer. An Arab-American is often perceived as a hater of Jewish people.  These perceptions are perpetuated and reinforced by the media and what we are told that a particular individual in this group has done.  This creates a linkage between the title we use and the expectations we have of each of these groups of people.

It is not a bad thing to be proud of your heritage, or to wish to distinguish yourself from others, but when the method that is used to do this inherently causes division, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of how others will perceive you.

I think that the time has come for the American people to take a stand, not specifically against racism, or against race pride, but against the idea that we are not all American FIRST AND FOREMOST!

We need to reverse the labels, so that each and every time we discuss a particular group or person, we are reminded that they are American's first and of a particular hereditary descent second.  This may seem very awkward at first, as in American-Irish, or American-African, or even American-European, but the change is something that could have a huge impact on the psyche of the country and the way people view each other.  If we hear that someone is an American-African, the first thing the brain will hear and recognize is that they are an American, then we will recognize that they are of African descent and most likely have darker or black skin, in comparison to an American-European.  But the important and more critical thought that goes through the mind first is that they are AMERICAN.

If we want to seal up the "racial divide" and to stop looking at people for their basic traits and think of them as Americans, we need to change the way we identify and discuss these groups.  It took many years to get to the point where we even recognized certain groups as American in our current identity version of our labels, and I don't expect this to take overnight, but I believe that if we were to start this, we as a country would eventually get to the point of dropping the second part entirely, and just calling all of us American.

Now that would be the American Dream.

[Posted by The Amendment Guy, Twitter @amendment_guy, E-mail]

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