South Slope. Asheville.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Melting Pots

My family's story - like that of all Americans - is ultimately a story of migration (or emigration) to this "new world" - one already inhabited by indigenous people, who themselves migrated from Asia (Siberia) thousands of years ago.  Slowly, over time, we got rid of them, and marginalized the remaining ones.  Think of the fears and worries some whites today feel about "illegals" coming up from the South, and multiply that by whatever number you desire.  Can we truly empathize with the Native Americans?  And I'm sure they felt very afraid of the migration of Europeans, and what that could do to their civilization and way of life.  But let's think for a moment.  My ancestors who came to the US - surely mostly for economic reasons - sought out areas of the country where they could settle, begin work and raise families.  Some Espys, for example, migrated west and became success stories, while others ventured south and ended up in North Carolina and soon after Alabama, where they made their own mark.  Sometimes, when a white American complains about immigration, I simply say, "Well, first tell me your life story.  Where did you come from?  If you can do that, then let's take it to the next level.  Perhaps then we can talk about modern immigration, and illegal immigration, which I have big problems with.  I certainly am open."  Occasionally people will go down this path with me. Sometimes people get quickly defensive or just shut down. I surprisingly big number can't even tell me their history or, even worse, show no interest.

When I was in Uzbekistan I met people who were half-German/half-Russian.  I saw Korean ladies selling produce in the huge markets.  I was infatuated with a beautiful young Crimean Tatar girl, whose family generations back, had migrated to Central Asia.  There were also countless numbers of Jews living in Uzbekistan, especially in Bukhara.  And let's not forget the Russians who migrated to Central Asia over the centuries!  The more I've travelled I've come to realize that the whole world is really a melting pot.  I had always thought that was something unique to America.....but it's not.  I had been taught that - like this was a special attribute that only we Americans figured out, and that this formula is represented best here, in our young land. Really?!?!? Melting pots and "tossed salads" exist around the world. And yet ours is still very good!

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