Paul R. Lehman, America needs to start showing the world what an American looks like

September 17, 2013 at 12:02 am | Posted in African American, blacks, democracy, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, immigration, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, Slavery | 2 Comments
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What does an American look like? If we were to go back to the 1840s in America, we might find some people who believed that the “real population” of America was of “Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Teutons, Slavs and a few other races. This description would be misleading because the Celts, Teutons, and Slavs were not accepted as “the real population” and were depicted not as racially distinct “but as consanguine ‘whites.’” Many Americans who today consider themselves white were not viewed as such until around the 1920 and after. The reason for all the fuss was that the Anglo-Saxons believed themselves the model of the human race. Some Americas were so consumed with the concept of America being a nation of white people and for white people with the Anglo-Saxons being the supreme white people that they were instrumental in getting laws passed to restrict the immigration of non-white people.
Harry Laughlin was one of the most active individuals in influencing the American eugenics policy. He was especially effective in obtaining compulsory sterilization legislation. He was once described him as “among the most racist and anti-Semitic of early twentieth-century eugenicists.” In 1934, he advised the Special committee on Immigration and Alien Insane “That no immigrant be admitted, whether by quota or otherwise, who is not—First, a member of the white race’; and that, for the purposes of immigration law, ‘a white person be defined as one all of whose ancestors were member of the white or Caucasian race.’” So, regardless of America telling the world that it was a nation open to all people with each citizen’s right guaranteed, we find the hypocrisy and prejudice apparent in who could qualify as a citizen or even who could be admitted to this country based on a created concept of race.
America has always been a country built on ethnic diversity and as early as the middle 1700s an observer of American society, Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, wrote “What, then, is the American, this new man? He is neither an European nor the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country.” He continued by underscoring his point concerning American diversity, “I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now wives of different nations.” He defines an American by stating that “He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraces, the government he obeys and the new rank he holds.” We should have no doubt about America being a diverse nation with no one group holding claim to the nation’s identity.
Unfortunately, when the concept of race was created and instituted in society, it was done so by people who identified themselves as Anglo-Saxons. Bringing their old prejudice with them from England, they assumed their group to be superior to all others. Their beliefs were contrary to the creed of their new nation since slavery was also instituted as an acceptable social feature. If hypocrisy was a joke, we would forever be laughing because rather than using diversity as a strength to unify the country, it was used in a contrary way. Instead of society working towards unifying the country, efforts were made to ensure class differences while not admitting to a class structure. The statement about “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” seems appropriate to the conundrum in which America finds itself today relative to diversity. Society puts on the mask of unity to hide the face of bigotry and prejudice because it still has not come to grips with the fallacy of multiple biological races.
So, what ignited this discussion on American ethnic hypocrisy? We began with the question of “what does an American look like?” The reason for the question was based on the reactions of some citizens to the selection of Nina Davuluri as Miss America 2014. Miss Davuluri is an Asian American and what should have been received as evidence of a nation growing in acceptance of its creed accepting our diversity as a strength, turned into a display of bigotry and prejudice. To make matters worse, her platform for the contest was called, “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” The runner-up for the title was also Asian American.
As a society, we need to start being more accountable for educating those who have no idea of what American democracy means. Those people who made disparaging remarks concerning the ethnicity of the new Miss America showed their ignorance of American history as well as a prejudice that is based on that ignorance. People who still want to hold on to the idea that America is a white country owned and controlled by white people need to be informed that the concept is false, an illusion. At one time in our history the concept was promoted because the people with money and power as well as the government had the ability to control the concept. Today, we know beyond a doubt the truth of mankind being of one race. We need to spread the word to those who still embrace the illusion.
The judges in the Miss America contest did a number of services for the country in choosing Miss Davuluri as the new Miss America for 2014. First, by choosing an Asian America they showed America and the World that the standard of beauty is no longer that of the European American. For years, no ethnic American was allowed to enter the contest. The second service they rendered was to show America and the world that America is indeed a nation of ethnic diversity and just what Americans look like. The process is slow, but each day brings us closer to the realization of the American creed that speaks to all people being created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Many young American girls who watched the contest can rest easily now knowing that Miss America can and does look just like her.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Dr. Lehman, this was a wonderful and much needed article…thank you.

  2. Thank you again for returning the focus to what is really important. Yet another symbol of the old way has fallen as we move (some of us kicking and screamimg) toward a future of unimaginable promise.


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