After a week spent in Ireland, a country that is 84% white Irish, 9% “other white,” 1% African-American, and 1% Asian, I stood outside the crowded Atlanta airport and was struck by the diversity displayed at the world’s busiest airport. Whites were a distinct minority. We saw Africans, African-Americans, Muslims of various ethnicities, and Asians. The contrast with Ireland was startling. We saw a handful of American tourists while we were in Ireland. In Dublin one night we sat beside a table full of loud drunk Italians. One of our cab drivers was from Nigeria.
The rest of what we saw was a homogeneous society, racially, ethnically, and culturally. It is a country that historically has had little immigration. Ireland remains Irish to its core and the people who live there reflect that.
The United States of America, the greatest nation on earth, is not homogeneous in the least, and that is our country’s greatest strength, quite the opposite of the racist drivel that brays from the mouth of the xenophobic jackass who is the GOP presidential nominee. Unlike in Ireland, here there is no “American” culture. Instead, we are composed of many different cultures, religious beliefs, races, and ways of looking at the world. Other than the indigenous Native Americans, we are a country of immigrants, and we brought our culture from England, Nigeria, Ireland, Japan, and many other places around the globe. Often described as a “melting pot,” America really is more like a simmering gumbo of innumerable ingredients, which combine to form something much more tasty and nutritious than a boiled Irish ham, a bland dish of only one ingredient.
There was a long and shameful period of our national history when the dominant white European segment of our population subjugated and discriminated against the other immigrant groups. In modern times this was epitomized by the 1950’s, when voting was largely restricted to whites and employment discrimination against women and people of color was rampant. Despite the recent victory against the forces of nazism and fascism in Europe, America’s diverse population was largely treated as an annoyance by the ruling whites. The illusion that America was essentially a white nation descended from white Europeans was reflected in popular culture such as the painfully narrow-minded television sitcom Leave it to Beaver.
This was the period that Trump supporters view as “great,” and Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is a thinly-veiled exhortation to go back to the good old days when whites controlled politics and the economy, and racial and ethnic slurs were considered acceptable. It is really Make America White Again. All this talk of getting rid of “political correctness” is code for letting racist whites say racist things without being told that they are racists. When racists are called out for their racism it hurts their feelings. Bless their hearts.
One of the best things about post-civil rights era America is that our national government supports all segments of our diverse society. In this way the nation as a whole is strengthened; with all of its parts contributing in their own unique ways to the American gumbo. Our president’s own multi-racial and multicultural inheritance is a microcosm of how a diverse America is stronger and better than any of the contributing cultures could possibly be standing alone. America’s admirable path towards tolerance and inclusiveness continued this year with the landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell striking down laws that discriminated against same-sex couples.
Ireland is a good country. America is a great one. The difference is diversity. Donald Trump and his supporters seek a return to America’s shameful racist past. That’s not making America great again.
America is already great, and it doesn’t need a tinpot dictator to make it so.