Why is there so much fear of the increasing diversity of America? Whether it’s Tea Party histrionics, sending a lesbian student and differently abled students to a fake prom, or just the constant hammering that we need to return to “core values” and “mainstream America,” it’s like there’s a circling of wagons. A panic that, dear God, the country might not be as white and straight as everyone thinks…especially now that we have a biracial president at the helm. The rest of the world might think we have intelligent people of color living here…gasp! That’s not what America is about, dammit! Except, you know what…? It kind of is.
This country has been a nation of immigrants from its very beginnings. Unfortunately, many of those immigrants earned their successes by treading on the backs of whoever was less privileged: whether that was Native Americans, African and West Indian slaves, the Chinese or the Irish. There was a white, male, Protestant oligarchy in play, creating a distinct dynamic in the Haves vs. the Have-nots. But over the course of the last century, more and more women, people of color and people representing religious minorities, have gained power, changing the makeup of the Haves considerably.
And now people are in a frenzy, it seems, to cling to the “old ways,” not realizing that the “old ways” in question supported institutionalized bigotry, fucked up the health care system and generally undercut many of the secular values this nation was founded on. (Yes, secular. “Under God,” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. “In God We Trust” didn’t become the national motto until 1956.)
Is it as simple as people just trying to hold on to what they have — or what they think they have? Why is there such a perceived threat if a gay girl goes to a prom or George Takei (Sulu, Star Trek) marries his partner? How does any of that affect anybody else’s life? And although it could be said that Barack Obama “took the job away from a white guy,” he won an election for a vacant office fair and square. (Honestly, I’m surprised no one has tried to claim the Electoral College is suddenly just a front for Affirmative Action.) None of this is chipping away at Middle American values…whatever that nebulous concept may be.
The mere existence of racial and gender minorities, sexual minorities and religious minorities— or atheists — in positions of power does not mean the end of the world for white Christians is imminent. We do not want to eat your babies, steal your wallets or drain your pension funds. I promise. We just want to enjoy the same inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.