Only One Tribe

Lawrence - Arlington, Virginia
Entered on May 19, 2005
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe that cultural diversity is not to be embraced — it is to be given a bear hug.

I’ll never forget the first time I faced a black opponent on the Little League baseball diamond. After the game, my father asked if I noticed anything different about the other team’s pitcher. I said I did: He had a great curve ball. My father smiled. His work was done. It wasn’t that I didn’t notice that the kid’s skin was black: It just didn’t matter to me.

When I exchanged my baseball cleats for a pair of soccer boots, my education in cultural diversity took a huge leap forward. My world is now saturated with friends whose colorful, mixed heritages are uniquely American – like a German-Hawaiian fellow whose dinner table is never complete without sauerkraut and pineapple. I befriended five men of different faiths, Shiite, Sunni, Jewish, Christian and Bahai who are all proud to be Iranian-Americans. I play with Asian-looking guys nicknamed “Chino” whose fluency in Spanish is only as startling as their inability to decipher a single Chinese character.

American has always been inhabited by citizens of the “Heinz 57” variety. Despite profound differences in the way we speak, how we worship and the manner in which we pursue happiness, America’s miscegenation ensures that the stew in the melting pot is getting thicker and has more taste. Pluralism is an American success story.

Take Tiger Woods, for example. He refers to himself as “Cablinasian” — Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian. His wife is Swedish. If they have offspring, it remains to be seen if they will be great golfers, simply gorgeous or both. With African, Anglo-Saxon, Chinese, Indian, Swedish and Thai blood, one thing will be certain: They will be typical Americans.

Racism’s ugly head may never be severed completely, but we’re reaching a point where those who refuse to embrace diversity are becoming the brunt of jokes. Black comedians do spot-on impressions of uptight white folks and it’s the white folks who are left howling in the aisles. White suburban teenagers routinely adopt a black persona and have forsaken Valley-Girl-speak for hip-hop jargon. The corner convenience store is now awash in Spanglish with a Korean accent.

Globally, we still have a long way to go, as buddies from Nigeria remind me. In Africa, the major problem is no longer racism. It is tribalism. Anti-Semitism can be found everywhere, even in so-called civilized parts of Europe. Backlash against Arabs has led a Palestinian friend of mine to brush up on his Spanish so if push comes to shove, he might be mistaken for a Hispanic. Ancient ethnic rivalries and discrimination based on appearance won’t be eliminated overnight. But the American experiment in toleration proves that peaceful co-existence is not only possible, it is desirable.

I believe in a future where the inhabitants of Earth will appear to one another like we would to visitors from outer space: A true global village made up of only one dominate tribe – humans.