Blood once poured onto the battlefields, but now spills on our streets. While African immigrants are no longer enslaved, their captivity endures in less obvious ways. There is no clear-cut geographic (North/South) divide, but a multitude of divisions that span far and wide. Guns are not just symbols of military might, but a source of scholarly tensions and immeasurable fright.
This new battle is one that has expanded its scope, polluting the masses and eroding our hope. In this war, there’s more than lives at stake; but a degradation of values we can’t seem to shake. What has become of our huddled masses? Can we no longer unite around a common cause? For these lessons on humanity, there are no classes and that moral compass is set to pause. The diversity of our nation should be a strong source of pride, but instead it’s resulted in contentious divide. There are two key areas where the division takes place, so under each one, I’ll establish my case.
On every Presidential Election Day, many Americans tune into the news and watch while the map of the states turns red and blue as the evening progresses. It is not uncommon to see states like Alabama or Mississippi give 60% or more of the vote to the Republican candidate. When a white person is born in the South, Republican Party affiliation is like an inheritance of sorts. While the South has not always aligned with the Republican Party, they have consistently voted for the party that best reflects the values and ideologies that are important to them. Over the years, the two parties have undergone a series of identity crises. After the party realignment caused by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Lyndon Johnson was quoted as saying, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a very long time.”
According to the Michigan Model of voting habits, “voters inherit a partisan identity early in life from their family and social environment, and that this affiliation, typically with the Democratic or Republican Party, shapes political values and perceptions of political affairs.” As long as people continue to attach themselves to a prescribed (birthright) identity, they increasingly lose the ability to think for themselves. According to Oxford Scholarship, “it has been estimated that those who base political perspectives on group identity—the ideological innocents—outnumber voters with strong ideological and issue-based opinions by a factor of 5 to 1.” Voting along party line rather than along issues and values requires significantly less effort and thought.
This is no different from African American citizens showing an overwhelming support for the Democratic party. According to Pew Research, 90% of black Americans voted for the Democrat candidate during the 2018 midterm election. It’s a form of identification. When this kind of party allegiance voting takes place, are we not missing out on the substance of the candidate and what he or she may represent?
More importantly, are we not further fueling the racial divide within this country? Circling back around to Mississippi, Pew Research statistics show 65% of whites to be Republican and 76% of blacks to be Democrat. This certainly paints a picture of a staggering black-white ideological divide. The war is no longer waged with guns on the battlefield, but with stern words in townhalls across the nation. Tensions between the two races is still a relevant issue, but now it’s largely cloaked in political correctness—seldom rearing its ugly head for public display.
The single greatest problem with partisanship is its blind allegiance. Due to this unwavering commitment to party over people, we lose sight of the simple principles of right versus wrong. We also lose sight of the all-important social mantra that proclaims, “the good of the masses outweighs the good of the few.” To best illustrate this point, just examine our grossly inadequate gun laws and the powerful lobbyist groups that keep them in place. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, out of 14,000 gun violence incidents, only 127 (.9%) involved the use of self-defense. When the strongest argument in support of gun ownership is premised on a .9% success rate, it would seem that the “good of the masses” is not exactly being taken into consideration.
Unlike the Civil War Era, when the issue was black and white, today the cultural disparity has been greatly expanded. Sure, there’s the Mexican issue with all that “build-the-wall” rhetoric, but our cultural issues are vastly bigger than that. The people of our great nation have been largely misguided. We have been placed under this delusion that the United States is a “Melting Pot.” When merely looking at the diverse demographics of our nation, “Melting Pot” might make for a fitting description. Also worthy of praise is the diversity of our labor pool and how mixed races can work together tirelessly in pursuit of common goals.
What about after the clock is punched and it’s time to go home after a hard day of work? At this point, the “Melting Pot” begins to look a bit more like a “Stew.” Just to clarify the difference, unlike a melting pot, a stew displays a medley of vegetables that are visible throughout the mixture. Just as the carrots can be separately identified within the stew, so too can Indians within their community. Just as the potatoes and celery can also be identified, so too can the Chinese and Polish within their separate groups. You get the point.
As a society, we are doing less mixing and more clumping together within our unique “cultural comfort zones.” If we are going to proudly proclaim our nation as a melting pot, should we not behave more like a melting pot? To help keep this ideology alive, assimilation is an important first step. For some reason, assimilation has taken on a negative connotation within society today, but why should that be?
The “sociological” definition at Dictionary.com describes assimilation as, “the merging of cultural traits from previously distinct cultural groups, not involving biological amalgamation.” Attempts have been made to relabel it as a mosaic, which is described as, “the elements of different cultures sharing one new nation cohesively to form a mural of all beliefs working side by side.” When examining the definitions together, are we not essentially looking at two sides of the same coin? Setting aside the subtle nuances, it is important that we strive to move beyond assimilation (or mosaic) and let go of some of our misguided (and often outdated) cultural ideologies that may impede progress. Many people resent this notion, arguing that one’s culture incapsulates who he or she is and that such ideologies should never be discarded.
There are some cultural qualities that offer unique and enriching perspectives on communities and those should be embraced. The mixing of all those vastly enriching perspectives is precisely what should make the “melting pot” a tremendous societal asset. Those “enriching” perspectives are not the “misguided” ideologies that are the target of this criticism. For instance, within certain cultures, female genital mutilation (FGM) is an accepted practice. Most people in the United States would likely find this act to be offensive and therefore consider it to be rooted in an “outdated cultural ideology,” correct? Of course, FGM also happens to be an illegal act in the United States. The point of this is example is to convey that not all cultural traditions are positive in nature. This is precisely why we can all benefit from various cultures uniting to create cohesively enriching experiences.
I am Indian, and while I am proud of my heritage, there is a certain area of which I am deeply ashamed. Within my culture, it is a widely held belief that there are two fields of study worthy of pursuit—Medical Doctor or Engineer. As a result, many Indian parents are ever-so quick to thrust their children into the first STEM program that comes their way. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the program, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
While I believe that such programs can be greatly beneficial to some children, they are not for everyone. For those who may be more “right-brained” or creative in nature, such a program may lead to extreme frustration and a deeply unfulfilling career path. Furthermore, it has a greater tendency to hamper the professional diversity that can be important in the development of an eclectic and vibrant economy.
While I realize that “politics” has been a dirty word for quite some time, its degradation has likely hit an all-time low. Today, incessant bickering is no longer confined to the legislative body. The scathing rhetoric that was once reserved for the House of Representatives has now extended its reach to every house across our nation. It has had a corrosive impact upon society at large, bringing to light emotions and discriminatory thoughts that may have once sat dormant. Simply put, the political process has now outwardly emboldened racial and social tensions unlike any that has been seen in recent times.
Now more than ever before, we need to be the “melting pot” nation to which we’ve long aspired. We need to find ways to shutoff the political megaphones within our heads and view people as the individuals that they are, rather than judging them on the basis of the political party or culture with which they identify. More importantly, we need to find our individual voices and resist the temptation of becoming extended mouthpieces of the political process. We are a nation of individuals and the more we find our unique identities, the better society will become as a whole.