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Our Racial and Ethnic Roots in all their Tangled Diversity are What’s Best about this Country

Trumpian White Supremacy has it All Wrong

Not enduring the same thing — the discrimination, fear and hatred of the latest immigrants — will be the challenge that a new generation of US immigrants will of course have to struggle with.

I haven’t mentioned one other critically important group of Americans: those whose ancestors arrived her from Africa. That is simply because so far I have not found in family histories any evidence that I am descended from an African ancestor, though there is one possibility — a reference to an ancestor who was lynched in Mississippi. Of course back in the late 18th and early 19th century in America it wasn’t unusual for white people to be lynched for crimes like horse theft, so the mere fact that an ancestor was lynched in the deep South doesn’t mean the victim was black, but it bears further investigation.

We do know, however, that enslaved Africans, whose forced labor basically built the United States, were brought in chains to parts of what are now the United States even before the pilgrims landed in Cape Cod Bay. Spanish settlers brought slaves with them when they settled St. Augustine in Florida in 1581, and the Jamestown Colony founded in Virginia in 1619 included from its start 20 African slaves. They and those who were dragged here involuntarily in chains later, and their descendants, surely had the biggest “challenges to overcome,” though they were not the ones President Trump’s speechwriters were hailing for their courage in the speech he read to Congress.

This is to be sure a complicated country, populated by a rich tapestry of many peoples from many cultures. My own little family added to this richness when, as residents of Hong Kong back in the 1990s, we adopted a 17-month-old boy from a government orphanage there. Now 24, he’s as American as any 20-something American, an aspiring filmmaker with a family of his own encompassing Chinese, Estonian, Puerto Rican and Italian roots.

I remember once when he had just graduated from high school — a beautifully integrated arts high school in Philadelphia called the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts — my son told me that he and his best friend, a black kid he’d known since they were in kindergarten, had decided they wanted to do a road trip to California over the summer. Now I had hitchhiked across the country at that age several times back in the 1960s, and once, at 17, hitched all the way from Connecticut to Alaska and back with a high school friend. Later, my wife and I, just in our early 20s, also hitched out west and from New York to Florida. Mostly these adventures were without incident, but not always, and the problems we ran into, occasionally scary, generally had to do with our looking “hippyish” in places that such appearance in the 1960s was not appreciated by locals. I explained to my son and his friend that as an Asian and a Black kid driving alone through parts of the south, central and western US, they could actually find themselves running into serious, even dangerous, trouble, including with police. I deterred them from making that trip, much as it pained me to do so.



story | by Dr. Radut