Whenever I hear talk of “the white man,” it’s unnerving to understand that they’re talking about me. After all, I am a tall, healthy, able-bodied, sound-minded, cisgender, heterosexual, white American male. I am just a Bible short of winning the gold medal in the Privilege Decathlon.
Then I listen to the speaker explain what it is we white men think. I can’t help but think “I don’t think that at all,” but usually stop myself from speaking out before someone accuses me of “mansplaining” or “not-alling” the topic.
But when it comes to the issue of immigration, I’ll suffer any slings and arrows coming from either side of the aisle.
I grew up in Nampa, Idaho, a small agricultural town very stereotypically separated by railroad tracks. On the south side of those tracks is a revitalized downtown district, with the city police HQ, post office, public library, and city hall within blocks of each other. Then, when you cross beneath the railroad underpass on 11th Ave, you emerge to billboards and signs in Spanish and a much more strip-mall and dilapidated-buildings district.
I grew up on that North side. I went to a bilingual school that was 75 percent Hispanic. Some of my first school friends were first generation Americans who were the only ones of their family who spoke English in the home. I’d come over for meals where Mamá wouldn’t gringo it up at all; my love for extra spicy peppers lingers to this day. The only schoolyard fistfight I ever got into was when a bully called my friend Ricardo a “spic.” I even joined my friends one summer for 4am shifts detasseling corn in the fields, a job I miraculously stayed with for a whopping two weeks.
It is with that background that I approach this issue of immigration. It seems a whole bunch of my fellow whiteys are really upset about the demographic and cultural shifts in America. They’re echoed in the Trumpian sentiments like “Take Our Country Back” and “Make America Great Again.”
Who is this “our” and who was it that made our country shitty?
Change is something most people are fearful of and also something that is guaranteed to happen. But this fear that, in the words of either Pat Buchanan or Steve King and I’m paraphrasing, “America won’t be America anymore,” strike me as odd and, frankly, antithetical to my understanding of what America is.
To borrow a Star Trek reference: America is the Borg.
If you don’t know it, the Borg are the end-boss bad guys of Star Trek: The Bald Captain. They drive a big ol’ cube of a starship and are humanoid/cyborg entities.
The important point is that the Borg assimilate all species and technology they come into contact with. You don’t defeat the Borg. You don’t change the Borg. You become the Borg. Resistance, it’ll tell you, is futile.
So, when one of the MAGAphiles exhibits this fear of what won’t be America anymore, I just want to ask them if they’d like to talk it out over margaritas and nachos. Or some green pilsner beer, if it’s St. Patrick’s Day.
I mean, what better way for us to unwind from all this talk about what makes America “America” than to have a couple of Jager bombs or some lemon vodka at the Olive Garden’s bar on karaoke night?
Maybe alcohol’s a bad idea. We should discuss American-ness over something relaxing, perhaps, like some hot yoga or tai chi. Or go to some nice cafe or delicatessen for some bagels and schmear.
Whatever we decide, let’s rendezvous for our ad hoc meeting, pronto! We’re all Americans, so let’s pass the peace pipe, ditch the schadenfreude, schmooze a little, and get gung-ho about recognizing that constant assimilation of new languages, cultures, and people BY America IS America.
Does that mean in the next thirty years I’m going to hear a lot more campaign ads in Español? My neighborhood may be hosting more quincañeras than I’ve seen lately? There will be chile limón snack foods in the 7-Eleven next to the Slim Jims? Great! That will in no way impact our collective white enjoyment of All Things Considered, backyard bar-be-cues, and mayonnaise as a condiment.
Immigrants are America. Resistance is futile. Brush up on your Spanish.