How will America deal with diversity?

The very face of America is changing before our eyes. Will this country be able to proactively manage its changing demographics during the years ahead?

FLORIDA, November 19, 2012 — Since the presidential election, everyone seems to be talking about America’s changing demographics.

As I have written, many things can be, and are, said about our country. However, one of these is undeniably true: We have always been a nation of many different types of people. Different not only in terms of personality, social standing, or religion, but ethnoracial background. In few other countries can one find an eclectic array of individuals having ancestors from opposite ends of the earth. 

Those in academia and the media often squabble over whether to call this country a salad bowl or a melting pot. I would not want to paint with a broad brush in either direction. However, I am certain that the United States offers a view of the world from an outlook unlike any other — sort of like standing on a mountaintop and watching the cities bustling below.

To fully appreciate the liberties afforded to us all as citizens or legal residents, it is probably best to take a good look at your own family lineage and the history associated with it. You might discover wonderfully pleasant or shockingly embarrassing facts. In all likelihood, variations of both will surface. 

In any case, you should gain a profound sense of personal knowledge. This can be built on to avoid the mistakes of your ancestors, as well as to grow on their successes. The past can serve as a key to unlock many doors that we struggle to open in the present. Learning about it can only bring a wealth of new opportunities — many of which we might not have even known existed.

Focusing too much on your race or ethnicity, though, can present serious problems. When one develops an attitude of tribalism, inevitably leading to the point of placing group identity above individual merit, terrible things are sure to follow. This is why I treat my own heritage in a strictly relativistic manner; what my forefathers experienced was exactly that, and it does not give me the excuse to take up qualms in the present day. 

I believe that if more were to share my stance, society would avoid needless and destructive conflicts. Imagining a world where a person can be judged on the basis of aptitude and character as opposed to skin pallor or ancestral origin is only too beautiful a dream.

During the years ahead, it will be paramount for minority and majority groups alike to find common ground. The best instrument for this, in my experience, is assimilation. Obviously, this must come with respect for foreign customs and standards. Immigrants and others need not be forced to forget their respective ancestral cultures.

However, expecting America’s longstanding macro-culture to change on a dime is preposterous at best, and offensive at worst. Such a thing would surely lead to Balkanization, and at that stage, various demographic groups would be placed in competitive positions. That is one of the most dire situations imaginable, and can be counted on to bring about unimaginable conflict.

By focusing on issues that bring people together rather than drive them apart, we can ensure that our country’s social fabric will be strong enough to endure the trials and tribulations of the twenty-first century. Sadly, recognizing that this is what must be done appears to be the greatest challenge of our time.     

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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