I try to steer clear of political issues on this site. I don’t consider this a political issue, so I would appreciate some restraint when it comes to approaching this from a “liberal” or “conservative” standpoint. It’s general thoughts on our country, race relations, and more generally the ability to change the way that things have been for generations.
Over the weekend leading up to July 4th, I took a brief trip back home to burn off some vacation time.
As odd as it sounds, one of the strangest things about my return from the south is black people. Deseret is not bereft of minorities generally or blacks in particular, but most minorities are either Hispanic or tribal and that is not as much the case down here.
Blacks are America’s most peculiar minority, which I guess makes sense because it is a legacy of the famous “peculiar institution” that brought them here. An overwhelming majority of blacks have been in the US for generations and those that are immigrants are vastly different from those that have been around. Unlike most immigrant groups in our history ranging from the Italians and Irish of yesteryear to the Mexicans and Asians of more recent, their upward mobility is, for a handful of reasons from all fronts, limited.
I liken it to two people that have known too much animosity for too long for things to ever truly be comfortable. There is a lot of talk from both outside and inside the black community that their current position is a result of their poor personal decisions and there is much truth to that. There is also a lot of talk from both inside and outside the black community about the persistent raw deal that they’ve gotten for at least 3/4 of their time here and it’s difficult to “start again” at a place that you’ve been.
I’ve read somewhere that one of the reasons that America is so optomistic is because it is young. Our history is bloody and brutish, but not on the broad scope of that of our more dour European contemporaries because we have not been around as long. Our concept of citizenship is not determined by bloodlines or geographic boundaries. Your citizenship is almost* the same whether you are born here or if you come somewhere else. As such, we have taken and assimilated different cultures better than most. Our immigrant pockets start disappearing after a couple of generations, while it looks like some of Europe’s may never do so.
Except, of course, the blacks and the tribes. Both are caught in a destructive cycle that people in all circles see but no one knows what can be done on a cultural level. I’m not sure there are any policy perscriptions that can do this for us. Nor am I sure that leaving it all up to individual choice — when social pressures so consistently run in the wrong direction — is a viable option, either.
Sometimes a relationship has worn on for so long that the more people try to “fix” it, the more tangled everything becomes. The welfare programs that were intended to help them all in the Great Society arguably did more harm than good. Whites telling blacks what the problems with black people are (their work ethic, their music, their language, etc) is also most unhelpful.
I have friendships that have turned like that, as well. We reached a point where no matter how much one of us tried to “repair” things, it only seemed to make things worse. Then, out of frustration, both stop trying. But when two people have to live together, it adds to stress rather than alleviates it.
I hope that America turns out better than those former friendships did.
(*- The exception being that immigrants cannot run for president. All the talk of flag-burning amendments aside, I figure this one is more likely than any other to become a Constitutional amendment.)