I learned two new lessons in the past few weeks, both based on an encounter I had with a certain person.
Lesson One: Do not assume a person believes a certain way based on a) their appearance or your impression of them b) your shared experiences or c) your feelings for them.
The Encounter: I was casually talking to a woman with whom I am acquainted. She is an artist and she dresses like one, wearing flowing tops and baggy silky pants (not pajama bottoms) and she often wears a hat, which makes me think of my mother. A few weeks ago when I was talking to her she asked how I was doing? I replied, not good with all the shit going on at the border (referring to the non-stop coverage of immigrant children being separated from their families). She said, “Oh you don’t want to hear my opinion on that.” As we continued to talk and I encouraged her to share. I’m going to paraphrase her response here, because I cannot recall the exact words, but she said that they [the immigrants] know it’s against the law and they still come here. And, she wanted to know, why did they bring their children? She continued in this vane, saying something to the effect that they should not even have children if this is how they act. I was confused and thought she was being facetious, so I continued to listen, not sure how to respond. She then said “Pretty soon we won’t have a border at all.” Here I agreed with her, saying, “Yeah, someday we’ll all be one country and everyone will be brown skinned.” What I did not say to her was that I am not alarmed by this prospect, as I am certain that this is the future of our country, but long after I am gone. My comment only emboldened her. “Look what’s happening overseas in Europe? They are being overrun with immigrants. They have no borders at all,” she continued. At this point what she was saying finally sunk into my thick head. She was alarmed that America will one day be a nation of brown skinned people, that Americans of European descent will be in the minority. Luckily I was able to extricate myself, no longer wanting to have this conversation with her. It took me a few days to process her tirade and to truly hear what this woman had been saying. And only then did I begin to come up with scenarios where I challenged her views with my witty snarky comments and mean spirited rebuttals of her ill thought out premise.
Lesson Two: This lesson is a bit more complicated, but I’ll try to explain. I now know that the negative reaction we are witnessing regarding immigrants coming into this country, whether legal or illegal, is a completely visceral response motivated by fear; fear of losing power, fear of losing control, fear of losing one’s place in society as the most favored group, fear that the truth will finally come out about you and your kind (aka group, family, klan, religion), that you are NOT more intelligent, more beautiful, more pious, more beloved by God, thus more deserving of preferential treatment; essentially the fear of what is already known, that you are not better than any other group of people, no matter how you frame it.
And this knowledge leads to the mother of all fears; that when the inevitable comes to pass, which it will in the not too distant future, Caucasian Americans will be in the minority. And as such they may be treated as less-than by the people of color who will be running the country. I believe we all harbor an innate sense of justice and so we fear retribution. In other words “paybacks are hell”.
Of course there is no logic in this fear, since most of us living today will not be alive to experience the browning of America and if we are it shouldn’t matter to us anyway. I personally think that this phenomena will be awesome to behold and I only hope that I am a witness to this great change from wherever I reside as it evolves over the next centuries.
The root of the problem, I believe, stems from the fact that most of us have a distorted view of history. We, the descendants of white Europeans, tend to forget that we are not the true natives of this continent. We started colonizing the New World over 500 years ago, like a plague upon the land, we became the dominant people relegating those who survived our onslaught to live in the most undesirable desolate places, taking away their land and willfully destroying their culture as we forced them to convert to our Christian religions. Add to that the horrid scar on our collective psyche of slavery. It has been over 150 years since the abolition of this evil in our country yet we are still feeling the ripple effects.
North America is not unique, though. Throughout the history of the world, there have been mass migrations of millions of people to the far corners of all but one continent. The Vikings, who invaded the British Isles over a thousand years ago have long since been assimilated and show up in almost 20% of DNA of most Anglican peoples. The Barbarians invaded Rome and caused its downfall. The Mongolians invaded Eastern Europe in the 13th century after overrunning most of Asia. And based on the Jewish scriptures, the Israelites were forced to live in exile in Babylonia from 600-530 BCE and centuries before that they sojourned in Egypt for 300-400 years. How many of these ancient people stayed in Babylon or became Egyptians never returning to the land of their ancestors?
And if we really want to be honest, all of our ancestors, and every Homo sapien on this planet, are descended from the first of our species who appeared over 200,000 years ago on the continent of Africa. [Scientist have traced our DNA back to one woman in Africa] So in conclusion we are all descended from dark skinned people and, if we, the humans on this planet, survive long enough without annihilating ourselves, will all return to being people of color. No one will be white. So go put that in your pipe and smoke it and maybe you’ll stop bellyaching about this tiny millisecond of time you have on this planet compared to the 4.5 billion years of its existence, of which less than .00005 percent has been inhabited by our species.