Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget . . .
By Jorge D. H. Prosperi
“Acclimate! Assimilate! We made it, why can’t you‽”
Sounds so easy to do – just assimilate, acclimate and become part of the infamous “melting pot” among a “color blind” society. Wish it was that simple. Perhaps the simplicity of such statements is based on self-induced socio-racial-historical-political amnesia. Metaphoric metanarratives provide painless instant solutions to a highly complex, painful and A haunting legacy.
To my dear acclimated and assimilated citizens, who continually urge simplistic answers, lest we forget that defining notions of MAKING IT requires effort and scrutiny with a critical focus on history before 2019, 1776, 1492 and 1400s. Let’s not revise nor deflect historical painful raw truths but rather move forward and towards change with courage and hope. Lest we forget to speak truth to power . . . the power inherent in history.
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget attempts to annihilate Native Americans, relocating them forcibly without voice and choice, separating their children from their parents, culture, language and native lands. Lest we forget countless dishonorable broken promises made to Native People. Lest we forget their “trail of tears” resulting in multigenerational soul wounds that linger. Lest we forget the oppression and victimization by the marketed metanarratives of, “Go West Young Man . . . and then if you wish, turn south.” because “This land is your land, this land is my land – From California to the New York Island – From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters – This land was made for you and me!” That is . . . if you’re white and Christian!
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget Native civilizations savagely plundered by civilized holy conquistadores on Andalusians slashing down innocence with sword and cross. Lest we forget that there are currently some 360,000,000+ ancestors of Natividad, Latinidad, LatinX living in 20 Spanish-speaking countries south of the Rio Grand, the Caribbean and equator.
Lest we forget that there are conservatively some 60+ million Spanish-speaking people in the USA living as neighbors.
Lest we forget that there are currently some 32 million legal documented American Latina/o eligible voters – the largest non-white voting segment of our citizenry. Latinas/os-Americanas/ os living side-by-side as fellow workers, neighbors, colleagues, PTA members, franchise owners, educators, professors, doctors, nurses, police officers, CEOs, local and national elected politicians, Supreme Court Judge . . . all who in their own time and space have become part of the Ozzie and Harriet Hernandez family tree – one day to direct and star in a modern version of “Papá Knows Best.”
32 million+ legal documented bi-lingual – bi-cultural citizens with “ganas y duende” (resiliency and will) one day to vote their voices – remembering El Paso and Separátocide. Remembering those innocent lives needlessly lost due to a vile domestic idiosyncratic terrorist manifesto.
A brown citizenry that will remember those innocent infant faces behind cages with horror in their eyes due to engineered, organized and constructed terror – all witnessed on cable TV by an “acclimated, assimilated, well-educated, civilized American Citizenry.”
Ahem, ahem, . . . Lest we forget the devastating cataclysmic savageness of enslavement of Africans for hundred of years on American soil. The history of slavery in the United States is one of history’s most egregious and persistent violations of human rights of any century. The subject of slavery is taught in American schools via a few chapters as a brief moment in time. How unfair for young students graduating with 12 years of formal schooling not to have learned the pathology of institutional Racism having to deal with its national historical pathology and ideology as adults, as fellow workers, as neighbors, as citizens – asking, “Why did I not know about this?!”
Slavery is the cornerstone of Racism – constructed and imprinted overtly, covertly, aversively and institutionally. The racial divide lingers in the 21st Century as America continues to struggle in order to amplify and actualize the tenets of Declaration of Independence pertaining to social justice, meritocratic opportunities of worth, rule of law and equal inalienable rights. America continues to deflect, deny and/or avoid serious engagement and discourse on its insidious historical DNA choosing to remain neutral, hesitant or blatantly ignoring the daily impact of America’s Original Mortal Sin – without absolution.
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget those huddled masses huddled on top of each other on those ships from Europe during the early 1900s arriving at the New York Harbor. Remember those masses with only a suitcase and crying infants – yearning to breathe free? Remember the homeless, the tempest-tossed, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores that America beckoned with no language requirement – no education testing – no job-skills examination – no health permits? Remember those caravans surviving ocean voyages – praying for, begging for asylum without visas and working papers?
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget the legacy of Sicilians trying to escape “la miseria” and facing discrimination and racism upon immigrating to the USA having to deal with immigrant officers at Ellis Island labeling them not quite white enough – being classified as “too dark” and as Africans. Sicilians were labeled “dirty,” “diseased,” and “political anarchists” – “not northern Italian enough.” In America’s south they were considered “black” on census forms, subjected to Jim Crow Laws and lynchings. Sicilians were not the only immigrants from Italy to be discriminated based on the color of their skin. Immigrants from Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Sardinia and Naples were also thought to be of the “dark race.” The term Italian- Americans took years to take root as Italians were considered second class citizens known as “ghetto whites.”
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget Irish and Scottish immigrants had their bouts with “America First”-isms and phobias. Remember the labeled “infested Five Points” of New York – their struggles with identity, anti-immigration attitudes, policies and forces? Remember the young men fleeing famine and upon touching American soil being conscripted right from the harbor to fight a Civil War without knowing why, who, where or when? For many, it was a short stay in America with their bodies falling on fertile Virginia soil they dreamed one day of plowing.
Oppression, bigotry, persecution and discrimination against the Irish was rooted in anti- Catholicism and labels of infested poverty stricken immigrants with their “poverty-stricken lifestyles.” The “No Irish need apply!” was not only used in England but in America, disparaging yet another group of immigrants seeking asylum and refuge.
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget Asian populations often grouped as the “successful invaders” discriminated against as a collective noun known as ASIANS with little awareness for the multiplicity of histories, languages, cultures and identities. Michael Luo, an American journalist, Harvard graduate and current editor of newyorker.com, wrote in the New York Times, “An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told My Family to Go Back to China.” Michael responded being confronted with, “Go back to where you came from!”
“We had just gotten out of church, and I was with my family and some friends on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We were going to lunch, trying to see if there was room in the Korean restaurant down the street. You were in a rush. It was raining. Our stroller and a gaggle of Asians were in your way. But I was, honestly, stunned when you yelled at us from down the block, “Go back to China!” “Maybe you don’t know this,” he penned, “but the insults you hurled at my family get to the heart of the Asian-American experience. It’s this persistent sense of otherness that a lot of us struggle with every day. That no matter what we do, how successful we are, what friends we make, we don’t belong. We’re foreign. We’re not American.”
Michael Luo gets to the heart of the matter – assimilation – acclimating is just not good enough. Asian Americans have a history of experiencing racism and discrimination being used and abused as commodities – “work forces” – in the building of America and upon the work being done having to face quotas, extraditions and encampments. No, Michael and his family and friends did not hear the insulting ignorant rant in Alabama or Mississippi it was while walking on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Ahem, ahem . . . Lest we forget that immigrants are “Making It” against insurmountable odds and continue to “Make It” against the insidious paradox of equal but different. Yes, immigrants, their families, their children make it day by day – step by step regardless of continued calls to “Make America Oppressed Again!” and “Go back to where you came from!”
Such disparaging ignorant language insults and slanders every educated and knowledgable Citizen who embraces their immigration roots, their heritage and their struggles. Responsible – socially astute – well-educated – well-intended 21st Century American Citizens define their Citizenship with dignity, civility, decency, compassion and reason. They do not fear immigrants and oppose antiquated ignorant racist insults understanding the lingering roots of racism because the current “them” was once “us.”
Citizens who work diligently to come to terms with social -isms and phobias remember that the immigrants who currently struggle to “Make It” are reflections of their personal stories intertwined in the American quilt. Each patch a story affirming the magnanimous heart and spirit of the American people. Responsible and conscientious Citizens remember with respect and advocacy their immigration story and wear it as a badge of courage, sacrifice and tolerance authenticating . . . E Publibus Unum* . . . Out of Many One . . .
Lest we forget the second part of the refrain . . .
Novus Ordus Seclorum . . . New order for the ages . . .
That new order is not new. It has been here all along . . .
waiting to be authenticated . . . embraced . . .
that is if . . . In God We Trust . . .
* E Publibus Unum appears on the seal of the President and in the seals of the Vice President of the United States, of the United States Congress, of the United States House of Representatives, of the United States Senate and on the seal of the United States Supreme Court.
Ahem, ahem . . . very difficult for anyone to not notice.