Just as the title says, I am the product of immigrants. The earliest direct ancestor I can reliably prove, is my 8th great grandparents who immigrated to the United States in the late 1500’s. The newest are my 6th great grandparents who immigrated in the 1630’s. So, my family has been here for awhile. But yet, I am still the product of immigrants. And so are you unless you’re of Native American descent.
That’s why this current, horrifying trend to return to the Jim Crow era is so disturbing. We should be better than this. We are better than this. So why don’t we show it?
Is it living the mores we were reared with. I contend it is not. Or at the very least it doesn’t have to be. I grew up in the Jim Crow south. It was an everyday occurrence to hear references to the “darkie”, the “little Jew”, the n%*#er. There were no whites only entrances or water fountains, etc... where I was reared but those things were easily within a comfortable car ride of a few hours. Whites and those of color simply did not mix. We had our schools, they theirs. Although not explicitly excluded, we had our stores, they theirs. Our section of the community, they theirs. Never the twain shall meet.
Now I tell you this because it would have been difficult to have grown up in a more racist society short of actual slavery. To not take those ideas and practices into adulthood with you. To not see others as equals, persons who deserve the same opportunities afforded with the American dream as I. But I did none of these things. The cruelty, the humiliation, the abject horror of racial discrimination was and is appalling to me. It made no sense, does the constitution not say all men are created equal. (That phrase always irked me as well). Until I grew older when I began to see the financial side of discrimination. Most immigrants are poor and uneducated. (A terrible characterization) The perfect patsy for long hours in low paying, unsafe working conditions. After all, they were basically subhuman, nothing to concern yourself with. That is if you have no morals or principles. Otherwise it’s a freaking creep show to watch and live through. And that’s from a white man’s perspective, I can’t imagine being an immigrant and living with such atrocities.
So after passage of the Civil Rights Act,the voting protections, all that has progressed for civil rights, why are our national leaders, Mr. Trump in particular, stirring up so much racial bias and hatred. Does it make them feel superior, strong, important? They are already at the top of the heap, nowhere to go but down. And perhaps that’s part of it. No matter how far they fall, they want to ensure a soft landing on those of lesser fortunes.
Perhaps part of the reason I can somewhat identify with these poor souls is that the region in which I grew up was among the poorest in the nation. The poverty rate among the highest. At least half the children in my elementary school qualified for free lunch. Now I was fortunate. I came from a family where both parents worked outside the home affording me opportunities not available to many in my community. A family that valued education and hard work. A family that cared for the elderly and within the family.
This new found return to the crow era is unnerving. And must be fought against with all we have.