It wasn’t until years later that I realized American identity does not need to function like a sword hacking away at our differences, or a snake digesting them. In his 1996 book The Coming White Minority, Dale Maharidge explores the view that multiculturalism presents “two stark choices: the United States sticks with a white-centered melting pot, or degenerates into separate conflicting societies.” He reveals an alternative to assimilation. He quotes a researcher who imagines it as “a continuous cauldron of activity, rebirth, reformulation.”
Multiculturalism is not a threat to civilization. The only thing it threatens is extremism. As America becomes more mixed, we will have a greater capacity for empathy. People with hyphenated identities are familiar with multiple ways of being; they can readily inhabit different people and diverse realities.
It seems so obvious now as I sit on the grass with my five-year-old niece, who is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Black, and American, fluent in Spanglish and Shel Silverstein.
Quite so, a few generations of miscegenation and the job’s done, right?