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The melting pot: The idea is a vibrant stew, not a tasteless mush
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

I must be stupid — or blind.

I did not realize Kamala Harris was black when she was California’s Attorney General.

For the record I voted for her opponent Steve Cooley in 2010 but supported Harris in her re-election as I wasn’t overly impressed with Ronald Gold’s credentials. The odds are I won’t vote for Harris for president in 2020 if she were the nominee due to some of the positions she has espoused and I certainly have no skin in the game to determine if she is the nominee given I am not a registered Democrat.

That said I just don’t get the seemingly non-stop fascination among commentators and blue party animals about her mother being Tamil Indian and her father being Jamaican and whether it is legitimate for Harris to identify as being black.

It probably came up at one point when she ran for Attorney General and ultimately for the U.S. Senate, but I do not recall an intense frenzy like what is happening now that she’s a candidate for president.

Meanwhile former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw recently was taken to task for comments he made on “Meet the Press” that Hispanics should “work harder at assimilation.”

The two controversies makes one realize that California isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the rest of the United States. That’s not saying there isn’t racism in the Golden State. I’m also not Pollyanna enough to think there will ever be an end to bigotry whether it is rooted in the fact others have different value systems, faith or lack thereof, skin tone, gender, ethnic background or their secular wealth.

But it seems a lot of people who spend their time lecturing the rest of us whether they are in the mainstream media, political operatives, elected leaders, or newly minted adults not questioning but lecturing presidential candidates need to get out more.

Harris, as an example, was slammed in a Q&A session by a 19-year-old college student for some of the cases she pursued as Attorney General. Harris responded to the “how could you” question by noting her job as Attorney General was to represent her client — the state of California — that has laws and regulations that she may but agree with but she was duty bound to uphold. She didn’t run away from the question. She acted like an adult acknowledging the real world doesn’t operate in absolutes and that without laws there would be no order. That might explain why in her 2014 re-election she secured broad and deep support across the political spectrum because she did the job she was elected to and didn’t play politics.

Harris did not run as a black woman for public office in California nor was she forced to do so. The talking heads and those political animals operating on the assumption that identity politics trumps all other credentials are requiring candidates to do so on the national level smacks of a 21st century update on the pre-Civil War South.

For the most part California seems to have grown beyond such nonsense because those in the Golden State have assimilated for the most part.

Brokaw and those who color the whole world based on the tight orbit of people they circulate with may disagree but I’ve never seen a wholesale effort by any immigrant group not to assimilate into the California and American culture. The Boat People from Southeast Asia may have been the closest not to for a fairly long period, but keep in mind what they have been through before fleeing the Communist regime, trying to survive, and then the shock of a clearly different culture. But in time they did assimilate to a large degree and certainly those who came to Stockton and elsewhere as young children or those born here have.

I don’t get the charge that immigrants aren’t working enough at assimilation. People — especially those that are older — don’t simply flip a switch.  Besides, Brokaw’s idea of assimilation is apparently much different than mine.

I can rattle off the names of first-generation Americans who heralded from Mexico and farther south that are registered as Republicans and hold views on political litmus tests on cultural issues that make me seem like a liberal. Just like with the general population there happens to be more Hispanics that identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans.

Talk to immigrants who own their own business, juggle two or three jobs, and are willing to work seven days a week to make a better life for their families. Their view on taxes, government overreach when it comes to regulations, and even entitlement programs make most elected Republicans who give lip service to limited government and less taxes come across as snake oil salesmen.

Perhaps Brokaw wasn’t talking about politics and just culture in general.

I’m not going to lie. I get frustrated at times when store clerks are talking in another tongue but that’s only when they are at the cash register and I’m waiting to pay and they are talking on their smartphone instead of doing their job. I’m also frustrated when store clerks are speaking in English and do the same thing.

Other than that, I don’t care if someone carries on a conversation around me in a different language. That’s their business, not mine. That said I have yet to meet a successful immigrant that hasn’t learned English to some degree as that is the best way to maximize your earning potential. English tends to be the language of “money” in the global economy. And just like with most successful businesses, the more product lines you have to lure more customers the better which is why being able to speak multiple languages reduces the most barriers to success.

And certainly you can’t argue that immigrants don’t cherish public education.

Martin Luther King Jr., just like other leaders before him, got that the dream we call America has to be all inclusive in order to work. Our culture — and our success — is based on the fact we are indeed a melting pot. It’s not about things thrown onto the container we call America separating like cream and milk. Nor is it whipping the ingredients into a frenzy to turn it all into a thick paste. The ingredients that make America the best it can be needs to simmer like a fine stew created over extended time in a crock pot.

The broth that holds it all together is indeed a smooth blend of spices and the taste of the items in the stew while the individual ingredients — pea, carrots, potatoes, and meat — clearly are different and retain their flavor.

Does the “color” of the potato — white, yellow or red — really matter? And do we really want those carrots to “work harder at assimilation” to the point they become a mere part of a bland purée and instead of strengthening the robustness of the stew they turn it into a tasteless mush?

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.