Years ago I was taught that the United States was the great “Melting Pot”. People of all colors, races, and creeds blended and united into this unique thing called Americans.
But today, things seem different. We become hyphenated — separately attached by emphasizing race, ethnicity, and heritage. Now we are more like a chopped salad with one dressing but defined by our differences. Hence, we have African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans Jewish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Arab-Americans, Catholic-Americans, and the list goes on.
Why? Aren’t we all just Americans united by the philosophical principles of liberty, justice, equality, and democracy? When it comes to these principles hyphens don’t matter. There are no African-American, Hispanic-American or other hyphenated issues under these principles. There simply issues of justice and equality under the law. If one group is discriminated against, isn’t it a universal issue with which we all should be concerned? Why the hyphen?
Are there feminist issues and wars against women? Or do matters of equal opportunity and liberty affect us all – our families, sons, and daughters and their futures? Why the hyphen? Does it mean that as a white male, I have no stake in matters of liberty, opportunity, justice and freedom when it comes to women?
Other countries don’t seem to slice and dice their citizens as much as we do. Are there African-French, Italian-Germans, or Irish-Poles? Silly isn’t it? Maybe these countries are not as inclusive as we are supposed to be – that we profess to be. Maybe there are just insiders and citizenship is outside the grasp of “outsiders”.
Yes, we are just Americans. Let’s just cut the hyphens. Let’s tell political pollsters to stop ‘disaggregating data” into “interest” racial, religious, gender or ethnic groups. We are all simply Americans citizens of the United States of America. What we perceive collectively is important. We should not pit one “demographic” against another when it comes to our democratic principles and governance.
Balkanization has no place in the USA. The common good is what is important. We should not get lost in the blizzard of special interests, subgroups, and the identities on federal forms e.g., white, black or African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Asian, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Hispanic or Latino.
Hyphens can lead us to the indifference of “it’s not my problem”. Let’s bring back the commonweal when it comes to our principles. My neighbor’s, community’s, and country’s issues are mine, even if they affect a single person or individual of a particular sexual orientation, gender, race, demographic, or class. Liberty, justice, and equality under the law are issues that concern all of us.
Let’s forget the chopped salad – a melting pot of interest around these issues is just fine.
Hyphens separate us. Get rid of them.