"The Browning of America"

By Suzy Hansen


Salon Staff
May 3, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)

Read the story.

It's possible to overdo it about the emergence of nonwhites in this country. Some reasons:

1. White skin becomes overvalued when surrounded by brown and black skin.

2. New arrivals do not understand the American class system and believe that America offers more opportunity to newcomers than it really does.

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3. As always, the real power players in this country are secretive and work through their proxies.

4. Publicity and fame, even wealth accumulation, are not the same as power.

5. "Miscegenation" has been going on for as long as people from different places have mixed it up, but the white guy is still on top!

-- Marianna Scheffer

I loved this interview. Truly, it gives me much hope for America. I would fit right into Richard Rodriguez's family as he describes it: "There's a woman who shows up at my family Christmas every year, this blond lady who comes with all my relatives from India. I keep bothering my mother, 'Who is she?' and my mother says, 'Why do you keep asking about her? She's married to your uncle's nephew. She met him at Berkeley when they were law students. That's who she is. What do you want to know?'"

I was utterly delighted, a few years ago, to attend the wedding of a cousin of mine whose mother is Mexican, from the state of Chihua, and whose wife is Chinese, from Hong Kong. The wedding combined traditions of three cultures, Anglo-American, Mexican and Chinese. It was one of the best weddings I've ever attended, and the reception was the best ever, with food and music from all three cultures.

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And I am charmed and delighted to see my cousin's children, beautiful little Chinese-Mexican-American babies. I feel proud to be a member of a burgeoning multiracial, multiethnic, rainbow-coalition family. And my own grandchildren are a beautiful mélange of European, African and Native American blends. That's where we're all heading, as Richard Rodriguez says: Brown!

-- Toni Michael

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How dare anybody call G.W. Bush the "first Hispanic president." How could a lazy, ignorant, silver-spooned creation of old-money nepotism ever qualify as anything close to that? Because he lives in Texas? That's the stupidest thing I've ever read on this Web site.

No, that statement is just sensational trash that sounds controversial in a front-page teaser and will do a great job of getting you a featured spot on Salon so you can sell a lot of books.

-- Scott Donnelly

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I fully agree with a lot that is put forth here. African-Americans have been saying this for years, and that is what the term "people of color" is all about. What is needed is for many, many more "people of color" voices to be heard in the schoolrooms, in the courtrooms, in the legislative rooms.

For us to go forward as the human race, the stories must be told and they must not be "his stories," as in "the white man," but the "hue-man." It's all of our stories. People of color, that's what we are!

Mr. Rodriquez has it "right on"; fate dealt African-Americans (of which I am) a duty. That duty was to march for the banner of humanity. We have to do it from the bottom of the heap. The bottom is the foundation. We are the foundation of humanity.

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-- Mary A. Segova

Congratulations to Suzy Hansen for a thought-provoking interview. It was a relief to read a piece on the changing face of America without the usual platitudes, pessimism or paranoia.

Still, as a brown immigrant, one who still remembers his first delicious taste of Chicago baby-back ribs, I wonder if the browning of America is all that of a good thing. Our differences make this place interesting. The prospect of a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of chicken tikka masala and rice pilaf (with or without Dr. Gupta chanting Hindu hymns) is as alarming as Sarah McLachlan belting out a Tejano pop number. At what point does blending in become drowning out?

I'd rather keep all our problems, and all this chafing and snarling at the different edges of our differences, rather than become a Monochromatopolis by confusing variety with diversity.

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On the other hand, as long as this nation is capable of churning out people like Mr. Rodriguez, I suppose we will be in good shape.

-- Anil Menon

I read Salon's interview with Richard Rodriguez with great interest. He offers a -- however controversial -- solidly argued voice for Latino culture in the U.S, a culture I have recently (five years, but it seems like yesterday) immigrated into.

I feel compelled to pick up one of his controversial points, namely, the point of affirmative action. I know that the racial and historical picture of the '60s that motivated the passing of the legislation is different from today's picture -- especially in California, where blacks can no longer be exclusively at the center of any racial debate, given the variety of racial minorities that make up the population. But I still dare to say that even from the '60s perspective, there is no basis to see the other minorities, including Latinos, as fraudulent beneficiaries "of all the suffering, of all the demonstrations, of the water hoses and of the bulldogs" that the African-American movement endured during its fight for civil rights.

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Is it necessary that every minority go through its own suffering, fight its own fight, in order to deserve the same human rights, like access to education? Why not see the African-American claims and fights as a model of what other minorities may have also been negated and deserve as human beings?

Additionally, if Richard Rodriguez the one-time college applicant "does not qualify as someone who has been the primary victim of racial discrimination in this country," then his middle-class family must have been the kind of family who was able to get the jobs they deserved and offer their children a proper education and prepare them for college. If this were his case, he would have made it to college no matter what. Why does he have to feel the only reason he got in was because of affirmative action, and that by getting in he took the place of a worthier applicant, a real victim of racial discrimination?

This is one of the American paradoxes I, as an immigrant, can't fully grasp yet. There is this whole lofty rhetoric about equality and about passing legislation to allow equal access to education; yet when you do pass the legislation and let the minorities into the system, the system looks down on them as the ones who got in easy because of the "gift" of the legislation. Thus, a smart guy like Rodriguez has to feel guilty his whole life that he did not really make it on his own, but was let in easy, cutting corners and taking someone else's place.

Arguing specific problems with the application of the legislation is understandable, but the fact that the overall racist view of the people inside the system has not changed after all the rhetoric and efforts to pass the legislation is bewildering to me.

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-- Francis G. Prado


Salon Staff

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