Two recent discoveries turned my thoughts to the enduring consequences of racism. First, to my horror, I discovered that two of my colonial ancestors from Scotland thought it necessary to enrich themselves off the labor and disenfranchisement of others. One was able to accumulate large tracts of land that required a large number of people to work the land. To acquire the desired labor, and to his everlasting shame, he turned to the slave market.
Second, I learned of the mass shooting of Asian-Americans in Georgia.
The knowledge of these two events have made me more determined than ever to do my part to end racism and inequality in the relatively short time I have left on this planet. Moreover, I not only feel sad for the victims and their families. I feel for those who continue to discriminate against others, to deny them their full rights of citizenship, to deny them their right to live in peace, and, in some cases, to deny them their lives.
Although I was raised in the rural Midwest where racial and cultural diversity consisted entirely of Christian descendants of European and Scandinavian settlers, by attending a large university, I discovered exactly how much those of other faiths, colors and cultures enrich us all. That lesson continues to this day.
From my black friends, I not only learned the reality of my white privilege. I learned the true meaning of patience, determination and hope. From my Latino friends, I learned passion, as well as an appreciation for new foods, art, and family. From my Asian friends, I learned compassion and an appreciation for ancient wisdom, Through Asian martial arts, I learned the importance of connecting mind, body, and spirit. From Native Americans, I learned to better appreciate our interconnectedness and the need to care for our Mother Earth. I learned that to unnecessarily harm any other living being is to harm ourselves.
I believe that it is multiculturism that has allowed our nation to succeed beyond our Founders wildest dreams. New immigrants bring new ideas, new wisdom, new foods, new customs, and a determination to work hard to better the lives of their families – always willing to start at the bottom to do the kinds of jobs no other Americans are willing to do. Indeed, it is the most recent immigrants who work in blistering heat to plant and harvest most of our produce, who process most of our meat, who cook and serve us our food, who clean and maintain our office buildings and hotels.
Contrary to what far too many seem to think, people of other cultures, colors, faiths, and gender identities are not a threat, whether they cross our borders legally or illegally or whether their ancestors were brought here in chains. It is the willingness to accept and adapt…to provide opportunity to others…that has made America great. If we lose that, we will lose our future.