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The United States: We Are a Nation of Immigrants

Updated on July 28, 2014

Animals have breed standards. Humans do not!

Turn on the news and you will hear story after story of how diversity strengthens us as a nation.

But wait, if you leave the news on long enough, you are just as likely to hear a story of how hatred for those that are different is the root of so many mass shootings.. I can't wrap my brain around people being killed for being different. Different than what?

Where is the description of what we are supposed to look like? Is there a breed standard for being American? White? Blonde? Blue eyed? Is this what we're all suppose to look like in order to be free to live here in America?

This is a sad time in our country. We are a nation of immigrants. President Obama is quoted as saying - "if you are not a Native American, you are an immigrant". Think about those words for a moment. Our country was built on the backs of those who came from foreign lands because they believed in the freedom and opportunity available in these United States. They spoke many languages and practiced many religions. Some had money, some did not. But now, in the 21st century, human beings are once again being persecuted for the way they look or, the way they live or, for what they believe. I just don't get it.

Census Population, Immigrants per Decade

Census Year
Total Population
Total Immigrants
1790
3,918,000
60,000
1800
5,236,000
60,000
1810
7,036,000
60,000
1820
10,086,000
60,000
1830
12,785,000
143,000
1840
17,018,000
599,000
1850
23,054,000
1,713,000

History of Immigration

Immigration to the United States began in the early 1600's with the arrival of British and . European travelers coming to American, the land of opportunity and freedom. Since then, immigrants from many continents have come to the United States to escape religious or racial persecution. The fabric of our history is woven by the skills and talents of these small groups of people who left their homeland and helped to build an America we could be proud of. Most worked hard and became significant contributors to the communities in which they lived.

The adjacent table from Wikipedia demonstrates the immigrant population during the formative years of our country.

Personal History

My own 5th great grandfather was an immigrant to the United States. He arrived here by boat from Ireland along with two brothers. Who and where would I be today if he had not come to America? What would my family look like today if my ancestors had been persecuted for being poor and speaking with a different dialect?

I am certain that my 5th great grandfather arrived here speaking with a heavy Irish accent. I am also certain that he arrived with few clothes and most likely had the appearance of a pauper. He never became a man of wealth or importance but he worked hard and took care of his own. He did not impose his values on others and did not interfere in things that did not concern him. He was a good neighbor and I am proud to be descended from this man.

An Imperfect World

The world we live in is not perfect. Nothing is. I just can't understand hatred for people that are different from us. Affluence, skin color, clothing, and religious beliefs are the things that make our world colorful and rich. These things should not be the catalyst for hatred and killing. Maybe I've just led a sheltered life, albeit a simple one. I am unable to comprehend violence that takes the life of another human being. I am not totally naïve though. I can wrap my head around the violence that occurs when two people are in direct conflict or, when mental illness overtakes rational thinking. I don't agree with it but I can comprehend that it happens. But how on earth do you murder someone just because they look differently than you? Can a rational person really commit such an act? If so, this is not the world I want to live in.

What happened to this country of tolerance and acceptance of those who came here to escape persecution for race or religion? Is my America gone forever or can we bring it back?

There are many religions and cultures that I don't know much about but does my ignorance give me a license to hate them? No, it gives me a reason to ask questions and an opportunity to bridge the gap of ignorance with education. Fear is a natural response to things we don't understand but the answer is not violence. It is not hatred.

Education

The responsibility for teaching tolerance begins in the home and should extend to every classroom and workplace in our country. Our parental responsibility is to teach children to be tolerant and accepting of those that are different. Our educational system has a responsibility to continue that education. And, our workplace has a responsibility to embrace diversity and build on its strength. Diversity has always been the strength of our nation and hatred will be its demise.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.

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  • profile image

    Howard Schneider 4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

    Very well said, IRC. We all originally came from somewhere else. Ignorance and fear breeds this hatred. We need to get know others and counteract this. These skinheads refuse to understand others and this violence is the result.

  • Theophanes profile image

    Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

    Perhaps I am an incurable cynic but I have always found that whole melting pot idea to be little more than a fairy tale fed to small children in public schools, perhaps in the hopes that it could be our future. At no point in American history have we ever shown complete tolerance of other peoples. We came here where the Native Americans were already living, we did our best to slaughter them and steal their land, at the same time we enslaved as many of them as we could as well as brought over other slaves and indentured servants of many ethnicities and religions but rarely the same as their keepers. By the time we decided to put in a railroad system we were using Chinese immigrants like they were mining canaries. Thousands died and when the railroads were complete we showed our deep appreciation by making it illegal for them to bring over their relatives or any Chinese woman. What if they started breeding? My God, we'd be overrun! Then there were the Irish but again we disliked them and their fertile Catholic ways. Irish need not apply. By the time the Civil Rights movement started organizations like the KKK were not only targeting blacks but anyone who was not white and who did not follow the correct religion. They even hated Catholics, who worship the same God and Jesus as well! Now we've shifted our distrust to Middle Easterners, Muslims, and really any one we don't understand 2 seconds after seeing them, even though we have been killing each other for stupid reasons almost since day one. I found out recently that our school shooting record goes back to 1764, and there are hundreds of cases since then. One of the first Hubs I wrote here was an article called Were Bigots the Driving Force Behind the War on Drugs. It wasn't an article promoting illegal drugs but was rather used as an excellent gauge of social intolerance. Every one of our major drug laws were in direct response to either immigrants or other minorities we took a disliking to!

    Maybe someday we can hope to achieve equality and tolerance for all but for now we're just showing our usual colors.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Theophanes - what an awesome commentary you wrote! I wrote the hub in the heat of passion hoping to initiate some conversation. I got it and I am thrilled. You could not have said it better. It did begin with the invasion into Native America and it was brutal. Sadly, the Native American culture is still persecuted and oppressed. When I started to write the hub, my plan was to keep to a historical timeline. Then, the passion took over. I have never liked geralizations and yet, my hub was very generalized. If you look at immigrants on a personal basis, or individually, many were indeed hard working good citizens who wanted to be Americanized. Some were not and took advantage of the opportunity and freedom. Such is life.

    My point is, and yours seems to be as well, that we are ignorant and ignorance breeds hatred. I do not have the answer but tned to think it starts with individuals having conversations about the subject. There is no justification for what happened in Wisconsin. It has nothing to do with gun laws, although the media seems to think otherwise. I can't help wondering though, what is our social responsibility? Should the Southern Povery Law center, who had the shooter on their radar, done something? Should white supremacy groups get more surveillance? Should hate records be outlawed? I'm not suggesting any of this, jut wondering out loud. How do you begin the education? The more I write, the more idealistic I feel. It's not a perfect world but it all just feels WRONG and makes me not so proud of this "it's all about me" world we are living in.

    Thanks for stopping by and adding some well thought out comments. You give me a glimmer of hope.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    HSchneider - thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, it isn't just the skinheads that are so filled with hatred. We are surrounded by angry, hate-filled people. Christians hating Jews, Blacks hating Whites, Whites hating Mexicans...the list goes on an on. The sad part is that if you interviewed a single individual from any of those groups, what they really want from life comes down to the same things. As humans, we all want love, food, shelter, and financial security. We aren't very different.

    I am reminded of a situation here in my state some years ago where the prison system reduced the violence in prison by equalizing the inmates. They did so by restricting the types of sneakers that could be worn, the type of jeans and shirts, and the hair styles that inmates were allowed to wear. When everyone had the same things and looked the same, there was less social competition and therefore, less violence. I just sure hope we get our act together before we are forced to be clones of each other in order to be more tolerant. What a sad day that would be.

  • Theophanes profile image

    Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

    The answer is quite simple - raise our children to be better than we are. They can carry the torch when they get there. The problem is that even though public school systems generally do try to teach tolerance it doesn't really go that far... It might be all sweet in grade school but by the time the kid gets older they're going to be getting their cues more from their home situation than school, and the schools themselves seem to have only a half-hearted attempt at teaching this into the middle and high school years anyway. In fact some high schools, themselves cloistered and backwards, go so far as to do the opposite like the Louisiana school that forces suspected teenage girls to get pregnancy tests before booting them out for positive results (http://www.aclu.org/blog/reproductive-freedom-wome... If that's not discrimination (at an illegal caliber) I don't know what is.

    Add to that the fact not all children go to public school but instead their parents can home school them. When done properly this isn't a bad thing but too often I see this right abused. Instead of using it to get their children a better education extremists use it to cloister their kids, to make sure they have no other outside influences, effectively stunting their growth and making sure they are brainwashed into believing the same deluded ideals as their parents. This is indoctrination into ignorance and hate. There's a few interesting studies on atheists these days that might be good to note (as well as the fact I myself am not an atheist so I am not pushing an agenda here.) The most poignant of which is that atheist and non-religeous persons tend to be more empathetic of all human beings regardless of creed, color, ethnicity, or what have you. The reason for this is likely due to the fact there is no 'us' vs 'them' mentality. Atheists are more likely to see the entire planet as one global community whereas religions tends to make their own tribe and consider everyone outside it somehow other than themselves. This is not a problem that needs to be inherent in religion. Certainly there are a few religions that are accepting of everyone regardless and I believe its these ones that are the real gems, that should be nurtured, encouraged, and employed.

    Here's a link to the atheist study so I don't look like I'm pulling BS out of the air. Sorry if I have gone overboard with linking. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/religious...

  • mperrottet profile image

    Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

    I honestly believe that in general we are becoming more tolerant as a nation, but that it is going to take a long time. Listening to my grandchildren, it seems as if the younger generation is not nearly as caught up in drawing boundaries between people as the older generation. Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but it seems to me that each generation becomes more tolerant. Let's hope so. Voted up, interesting and useful.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Theophanes. No worries! You broke no rules. lol Interesting study (the link you provided). Now it's my turn to be the sceptic. Although the sudy is interesting, I tend to take summaries of data pretty lightly. I like to see the raw data. (it comes from crunching cancer statistics for a very long time) Data can be twisted to prove any theory. I'm not saying the study is wrong. I'm simply pointing out a flaw in the science.

    That said, I can believe that atheists are more tolerant but I cannot explain it. Atheism is still a form of grouping people of like minds. Anything that seperates us creates potential conflict. The only thing that we all truly have in common is our species. We are all human beings. Accepting that makes tolerance easier.

    A commentor from the Huffington Post article said something to the effect that in order to end intolerance, we would all need to ask - "what's it like to be you?" I feel another hub on the horizon.

    This is a great dialoguq and one that should be held in our communities and families and places of bsiness or worship.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    mperrottet, I think you are correct, in general. The children who are being born in this decade may have a better chance of living in a more tolerant world. Unless, history repeats itself, which it is known to do. Sadly, I don't think we can just blindly trust that tolerance will come with a new generation. Like most things in life that matter, it will take a lot of work.

  • Theophanes profile image

    Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

    Wouldn't we all like to see raw data? The scientist in me would thrive on that but that's hard to come by so I have to listen to what the "experts" think and then make my own conclusion (which isn't always the same!) Funny enough I can think of two other studies/statistics that are relevant to the conversation. The first is a study that suggests the lower your IQ the more likely you are to have prejudiced views (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/intellige... The second is more about education than intelligence. There have been several studies that reveal statistically the higher education you receive the less likely you are to hold any religious, cultural, or superstitious beliefs, which may be converse to tolerance. I mean if you hark back to the inspiration of this article - the recent shootings - you'll find the dude was a skinhead... and skinheads are firm in their beliefs, be they religious or just misinformed, that whites are indeed to only 'good' people.

    In any event I am happy to give you fodder for another Hub! I have been contemplating a few due to recent discussions. Good luck with yours, I'll be happy to read them!

  • Nick Hanlon profile image

    Nick Hanlon 4 years ago from Chiang Mai

    Sikhism is a religion that does not seek coverts nor does it expect to impose it's norms on it's hosts,except for the matter of the turban.But it has defended itself with extreme violence both in India and overseas.Indira Gandhu assassination.Air India bombing in 1985.There are no innocent religions ,races or nations on this planet.Only innocent individuals.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Nick! True, there are no innocents but I note that you said the Sikhs "defended" themselves. Even a domesticated animal will defend itself if it is threatened. We are no different. Defense is one thing. Pure hatred, such as the shooting in Wisconsin, is another.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Thephanes. You are a good resource and a a great commentator. You make me think. lol I appreciate your participation in this discussion. I find skinheads a curious lot. Did they name themselves "skinheads" or did society hang that tag on them. More research to do. At any rate, if they gave themselves the title, there is little else to say about them. The lower IQ theory makes sense. So does the one on education. I do wonder though, about the future generations. Young people today seem more tolerant, in general. I also wonder about the role our government AND media play in feeding this pending class/race war. More fodder!

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