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America is still the ‘Melting Pot’

September 20, 2006

There is a lot of controversy surrounding immigration to this country.  Other countries have more stringent policies on getting in, and some perhaps are more lax.   I’m not going to wade into the politics or the issues as that’s not my point today.   I’ll just note that with very few exceptions, all our ancestors came from some other land.  I grew up in a small town that wasn’t very diverse.   Like in the movies, everyone fawned over the exchange student in high school.  I don’t remember where she was from.  There was a sister city project that some of the town leaders got involved in, and we entertained some guests from the Soviet Union.  Probably they were from the Ukrain.   We wanted to show them around and see the sites, the mountains, etc.  They wanted to go to Wal Mart and Circuit City to look at televisions.  That was about 20 years ago.

Times are changing.  When I travel to New York City, I never grow tired of just looking at all the people and marveling at the vibe of the city.  I’ve toured Ellis Island, and how approriate that NY was such an immigration gateway to our country 100 years ago.  It only makes sense that it would be so culturally diverse.   I’ve just not paid close attention to the fact that Raleigh, NC is becoming more and more diverse.  Yesterday, as I worked on my house along side a Mexican crew installing the heat pumps, and a couple guys from the Check republic installing the granite, it was really clear the degree to which immigration, and integration is underway.   Immigration, in that the countertop guys spoke passable English, but with a heavy accent, which led me to believe that they have not been here all that long – maybe five years.  Integration, in that the Mexican crew spoke English with less of an accent and were socially at ease enough that they made up an impromptu joke, and shared it with me.  They had packed up their tools and were getting ready to leave when the realized they had forgotten something. One guy struggled with the lock on the roll up door on the back of their box truck.  After several minutes of struggling, a second guy began to help out.  The third one looked an me and said, “Ok, How many Mexicans does it take to get into the back of a truck…?”   It was a good one liner that didn’t need to be finished.  Various social groups are often the object of jokes for other groups, and I was struck by the fact that this guy was so at ease that he could laugh about it.   He seemed to have integrated into our culture and had become an American. 

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