America’s self-mythology – that doctrine of exceptionalism that undergirds so much of our political, economic, and social discourse – is tragicomically whitewashed. This narrative, while handy to support and/or excuse wide swaths of ill behavior, requires the speaker to leave out whole paragraphs of history, to engage in rhetorical sleights of hand that would make even the best magician incredulous.
From the “discovery” of a continent that had been populated for tens of thousands of years to the embarrassing justifications of Jim Crow to our current hatred-fueled racial paranoia, those in power have clung increasingly desperately to a convenient fiction. The reality is that America is and always has been a confederation of minorities, a glorious testament to the power of diversity. Sadly, for too long the spoils of the collective have flowed to a select few.
The defining document of our republic refers to our native peoples as “merciless Indian Savages,” even as it chastises King George III for his transgressions against the interests of a small subsection of the colonists. It is a remarkable act of dissonance. Purporting to advance the cause of human freedom, the Declaration of Independence instead institutionalized racism and ignored the critical contributions of both the indigenous population and those that were brutally stolen from their home continent. Self-servingly regarded as an extension of divine will, it justified the wholesale slaughter and subjugation that would define the coming centuries.
Each subset of newcomers to our shores were subject to abuses from those that ironically claimed native status, themselves being interlopers. Instead of respecting the small differences and embracing the large similarities between each minority group, there was violent rebuke. Girded by the delusion that white men of means were the sole beneficiaries of an alleged manifest destiny, that allegedly blessed minority took great pains to protect its status. These were the actions of an acutely insecure population, one that tricked itself into believing in a meritocracy that was so clearly tilted in its favor. Nothing has changed in modern times.
Unflinching allegiance to sociopolitical and economic systems that were built by and for rich white men is no way to progress a civilization that has almost infinite constituencies. Terrified at the erosion of its power, this minority clings with great fervor to its remaining influence, engaging in cheap tricks, minor deceptions, and outright lies to attempt to prolong its spot at the top.
Those that still hold onto power raise alarms about migrant invasions and attempted hegemony, ascribing motives to other minorities that are actually self-reflective. Unable to grasp that most people simply want the basic comforts of physical safety and financial security, these buffoons posit a coming race war and the end of the “real America.” That America exists only in their hallucinations.
Fortunately, the rest of the country has realized its own potential, has asserted its freedom to challenge the stagnant status quo. The disparate groups that form the soul of this nation are seizing the opportunity to form coalitions. United, they may combat the injustices under which they have labored and trembled for far too long.
America is not a melting pot; it is a patchwork quilt of overlapping minorities. There has never been a monolithic, homogenous minority in this country. An American can at once be man, woman, white, black, gay, straight, Catholic, Jewish, and of Romanian descent. Reducing each person to a simple label ignores the variety that makes us smart, special, and strong.