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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Increasingly the Same

CNN had an article today on the increasing population clout of minorities. The headline of the article was "Minorities Getting Closer to the Majority". Immediately, my first reaction was: were we that far? Obviously, minorities are, by definition, in the numerical minority. This is the basis of our entire quandry: starting with a majority-rule situation, how do we minorities ensure that we are not disenfranchised and unfairly marginalized if we do not wield the kind of political clout sheer numbers can offer? But at the same time, the headline of this article, as well as the tone of the piece, suggests not a numerical difference but some other form of intrinsic 'Otherness' between minorities and the majority. This article suggested to me the subtle messages that the media can send with their choices of words and stories. Though we are talking about a finding by the Census Bureau, in the context of today's hot-topic issues, the ramifications of this CNN story extend beyond a simple few percentage increase in population numbers. By highlighting our 'getting closer', the writer of this article suggests that we are currently 'far away' from the majority. It reinforces a classification of the minority as distinct, different, abnormal and Other -- as well as suggesting that it is a desirable achievement to become closer to the majority. In the context of the recent immigration debates, and the fact that this article focuses on Hispanic minorities, one cannot help but see the article in an assimilationist light. Last Monday, thousands of minorities, Hispanic or otherwise, gathered for a national day of protest against the mistreatment of immigrants, undocumented or otherwise. A recent hullabaloo was made over the writing of a Spanish-language version of the Star Spangled Banner. It seems the debate in this country has quickly turned from one of legislation to one of assimilation: the very fabric of a singular American culture seems to feel threatened by a multiciplity of identities threatening to alter the definition of America. Although there is legitimate debate over the patriotism of changing the words of the Star Spangled Banner (the Spanish language version was not a strict translation but altered the lyrics to specifically support immigrant and minority identities), anti-immigrant pundits like CNN's Lou Dobbs seem to be concerned less with patriotism and more with difference. What must be remembered when dealing with people like Dobbs is that America was only in its very earliest inception a narrative of a singular voice. With the forcible and voluntary entrance of people of colour into America, the narrative quickly fragmented, and it is this fragmentation that I think defines America. So the problem here is when one suggests that minorities can or should 'get closer' to the majority. Though we might increase in number, we must remember that this political clout should be used to remind people that we may be 'different', but that difference is not abnormal, and that regardless of any cultural or political uniqueness, we must still strive towards a common equality. This article did strike on some good points. It is imperative that minorities not be invisible, and the finding of the Census Bureau lends greater weight to the idea that certain problems faced by the minority community need to be addressed. But they need to be addressed despite the growing population numbers, not because of it. Creating products and programs for Hispanics because they are growing in numbers ignores the ethical reasons for improving quality of life for disenfranchised minorities. For every 'Hispanic-community-catering' toothpaste brand created, we should have as many for Blacks, Asians and Native Americans.

7 Comments:

Blogger Ragnell said...

I hate these anti-immigration people. So many of them forget that their grandparents and great-grandparents made their way across the ocean that was hostile to their language, their customs, their food, and tried to send them back where they came from. Damned hypocrites.

5/11/2006 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous James Cape said...

World On Fire by Amy Chua should provide the necessary hints at why white persons are terrified of a white-minority U.S. Essentially: when a minority tries to maintain monopoly ownership over a nation's wealth, bad things happen to them.

In the same vein, "Look out, behind you!" strikes me as pretty banal pickpocket trick. So much the better if the pickpocket isn't the one shouting the warning.

5/11/2006 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous recumbentgoat said...

Creating products and programs for Hispanics because they are growing in numbers ignores the ethical reasons for improving quality of life for disenfranchised minorities.

Yes. Thank you for pointing this out. No immigrant can look away from their new country's existing problems--even as they try to assimilate into it.

5/11/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger solitaire said...

Jen... have you seen this site? the madasian

5/11/2006 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

hey solitaire... is that site a joke?

5/13/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Rahul Nirmal said...

As long as the white race is decresing in number and power, I'm not complaining.

5/16/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

"With the forcible and voluntary entrance of white people into America, the narrative quickly fragmented, and it is this fragmentation that I think defines America."

I prefer it this way. Unless you're of Native American descent, your ancestors immigrated here in the very recent past. The USA is entirely a creation of immigrants. Without European immigrants, the face of North America would be greatly changed, and it's quite possible that there wouldn't be one unified country occupying this land.

There is no time before immigrants in the history of the USA. Things happened on this land, obviously, and there were other countries, but the USA as a distinct concept was basically the result of immigration.

5/20/2006 04:25:00 AM  

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