Demonization

Anyone following the news at all is aware of several recent truly awful incidents of mass shooting in America, in particular, one in Uvalde, Texas and one in Buffalo, New York. It’s not clear what motivated the Uvalde shooter, but the Buffalo shooter was quite candid about his motivation. He went to shoot black people because he believed white replacement theory. I’d never heard of it before. It’s clearly racist, false, hateful, and disturbing. But having said that, we should be hesitant to demonize the theory or anyone who believes it. For that matter, the same caution applies in other cases of hate crimes. Let’s look at the causes if we can and remove them.

What many liberals don’t want to recognize are the natural human instincts and demographic reality of a changing America, that are behind such beliefs. Fear of change is a natural instinct. Violent response to change, especially sudden change, has been with us for millennia. The Luddites are a prime example. The haters are correct about one thing: America is becoming more diverse, and that means less white. They’re ridiculous in thinking it’s a Jewish plot and incapable of grasping the reality that migration is a constant throughout history. It’s inevitable, and therefore not a bad thing. We should try to educate people to that fact. Everyone in the world, with the possible exception of a soul in Olduvai Gorge, is descended from immigrants.

Take my block, for example. We live in what is now known as Silicon Valley. When my wife and I moved in in 1981 there were twenty houses and twenty white families, ten on each side. So far as I know, all were born and raised in America. I don’t remember anyone having an accent. On the Fourth of July, one of the neighbors would rent barricades and get a license and we would all come out and barbecue, visit, and get to know each other. American flags would fly. All of them, I think, owned their homes and many were long-time residents. The neighborhood kids would play in our pool. The first change was a German man, an engineer. Then he married a Chinese woman. No one thought a thing about it. Both are still our good friends today. But over the years, things inevitably changed, driven largely by the tech boom. Most of the houses were extensively remodeled or leveled to be replaced by bigger, fancier ones. Next to us now is an Indian family with a nanny. Next to them: an Irishman with an Indian wife. Then two more Indian families, then the German man and on the corner, a Russian. On our left we’ve had a slew of renters from various countries including China and Israel. There’s a Russian family on that end, too. Across the street we have two Chinese families, a Japanese-American, two more Indian families, and a Pakistani family. We’re the only house that flies the flag on any national holiday. The street parties are no longer, although one of the Indian families has attempted to resuscitate them. I believe they are the only ones I called Indian who were born and raised in America. The house directly across from us is owned by an Indian family but is about to be rented to a Mexican family. Many of the immigrant families come and stay for two or three years at a tech firm and move on. Many are renters, not homeowners.

I can understand how people bemoan the loss of cherished traditions they were comfortable with. People feel safe with sameness and distressed at feeling like an outsider.  Some people react with fear and loathing. I miss the shared traditions we used to have, but I also enjoy the diversity of my “new” block. When the house across from us went up for rent, I chatted with two Japanese fellows who were interested. I was hoping they’d rent it so I could practice my poor Japanese. They were able to understand it. Instead, my wife, who speaks Spanish, will be the one to practice her language skills when the Mexicans move in. She regularly walks with a French neighbor and speaks French with her. My wife is the linguist in the family. My neighbors are all good people. I feel fortunate to live in such a wonderful neighborhood. I’m able to accept and welcome change even while missing the old. Not everyone can. I don’t condone any sort of hate crime or racism, and certainly not these awful murders, but demonizing the instinct to make American white again is unproductive. We should be educating, not vilifying.

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