Soon I will begin teaching a course at a local college called Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in the U.S. It should be a really good course to teach, not only because I have wanted to teach a U.S. history course, but because the topic is a very current one. One of the books I will be using is by Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. It is a fantastic book.
As I read through this book, I can’t help but feel depressed about the whole of U.S. history. It has been one long, violent conquest of every piece of this country. Those of European descent have always felt that they were better than anyone else–the black slaves they imported from Africa, the Native Americans who were here first, the Mexicans whose territory was taken from them, and the various Asian people who came over thinking they were going to have a better life. That belief that white skin is better than any other color of skin still pervades the U.S. I don’t know if it will ever go away.
Another parallel I see with these groups who have been used, rejected, and finally protected through various laws including Hate Crime legislation is with gay and lesbian Americans. All of the above-mentioned groups fought for this country in WWII, despite the fact that they were fighting for democracy and freedom that were seldom afforded in their own country. This is exactly what is happening with gay and lesbian soldiers (and citizens for that matter). They are fighting for democracy and freedom in other countries and yet they cannot be free and open in their own country. I have the ultimate respect for all of these groups to decide to fight for a country that has really rejected them or has made them less than equal. They believed that through their sacrifice they will be accepted. I don’t think the acceptance of some of these groups has come, despite their sacrifices for their own country. And that is the case for gay and lesbian soldiers. They fight, they die, but then are rejected, mostly based on laws that are ultimately based on religious persecution.
I can, however, keep hoping that ultimately all people will actually be seen as equal, despite the color of the skin, despite gender, despite religion, despite sexual orientation. It seems a constant struggle, but maybe that is really what people are all about–the struggle for what is right. I think this says a lot about the basic nature of humankind–the constant struggle for what is right shows that humanity must be taught to do what is right. It doesn’t seem to be a natural thing for some/most people. Maybe it is the animal nature in all of us that must constantly be pushed down in order that a civilized society can be made into a good one. This country has never really been a country in which all can be free and live a happy life. I suppose that is the whole reason the founding fathers of this country created the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They knew what humans are really like and knew that people have to be taught to be good and to do good. It is a constant struggle, but with good laws we can at least make the effort to move forward. And although sometimes evil things are done, the good will always win in the end. Always.