As I was driving from Florida to Texas recently, I passed a billboard that carried the following message: “Strength through Diversity.” It was advertising an inner-city program funded by the federal government. My immediate thought was “Good luck with that. You will never achieve diversity if the federal government is involved.” In fact, although politicians like to talk about the benefits of diversity, their words seldom match their actions. There is very little about the federal government that promotes strength through diversity. In fact, just the opposite is the case. The federal government, since it assumed the role of nanny, pulls Americans apart and pigeonholes us by race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other factors. Said another way, nanny government Balkanizes Americans.
America is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Practically every language spoken in the world is spoken in America by people who came here from somewhere else. Most Americans can trace their lineage back to a mother country somewhere else in the world. In fact, it would be difficult to find a country anywhere on the globe that has not sent immigrants to America. This is why America’s Founders espoused the melting-pot concept captured succinctly in our national motto: E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). Our Founders understood instinctively that a nation composed of immigrants could go one of two ways: 1) America could become a nation of warring factions forever separated by national heritage, race, and language; or 2) America could become a melting pot that transformed immigrants from all over the world into a new entity called an American.
The melting-pot concept never worked perfectly. No concept that deals with such deeply personal issues as heritage, lineage, race, language, and cultural values can work perfectly. However, the melting pot did work better in the past than it does now. In fact, in today’s politically correct America it no longer works at all. One of the main reasons the fire under America’s melting pot has gone out is federal government policies and practices that force people to view themselves and others through the lens of race, gender, and other factors, and not just immigrants but native born Americans too.
By and large the melting-pot concept is based on realization of the need for a common language, subscription to a common set of broad principles, equal treatment of all people, and allegiance to a common nation—the United States of America. With the exception of slavery, the melting-pot concept worked well to assimilate immigrants into the mainstream of American society. Of course, this was before the federal government got involved. Until the federal government clumsily stepped in and ham-fistedly took control, immigrants from all over the world saw assimilation as the first step toward realizing the American dream. Immigrants used to insist that their children learn to speak English and adopt American values. They proudly identified themselves as Americans, not Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, even though others attached these hyphenated labels to them. We now have native born Americans who identify themselves not as Americans, but as hyphenated Americans.
An outgrowth of the Civil Rights movement in America—a movement that sought to ensure that all people are treated properly and in the same manner regardless of national heritage, race, religion, or gender—was a proliferation of federal government policies that did just the opposite. Affirmative Action regulations require employers to segregate job applicants and those seeking admission to colleges and universities by race, gender, age, and ethnicity—an action diametrically opposed to the goal of the Civil Rights movement and the melting-pot principle.
Not content with requiring segregation on paper, the federal government began to adopt pro-minority policies that made it financially worthwhile to check the boxes on applications and forms that indicated minority status. As a result, people who wouldn’t know a teepee from a tomahawk now claim to be American Indians. An example of a federal government policy that balkanizes Americans is known as the “8A” program among business people. The 8A program requires large government contractors to award “minority owned” small businesses subcontracts without the inconvenience of competitive bidding. Its stated purpose is to give minority-owned small businesses five years to learn how to operate competitively before they have to actually submit bids and do all of the other things regular small businesses have to do.
The program has a dismal record. It has done little to turn minority-owned businesses into successes, but it has turned a lot of people into minorities. In an attempt to hop on the federal gravy train without having to operate competitively, a lot of small business people began to look for or simply invent enough minority blood in their backgrounds to gain 8A status. What the politicians never seem to learn is that there has never been nor will there ever be a government program that people cannot twist out of shape for their won benefit.
Colleges and universities started giving special consideration to applicants who could claim any level of minority status. Employers began to feel pressured to fill job openings with minority applicants, regardless of their qualifications. In short, once the federal government got involved the incentive for immigrants and native born minorities changed from eventual assimilation to permanent self-segregation. Why assimilate when all of the government entitlements require segregation?
The melting pot was never a perfect concept, but was a good concept and it is a concept that America needs to re-embrace, endorse, and encourage. The first step is to eliminate all government policies that encourage self-segregation. Just eliminating boxes on applications and government forms that require people to self-identify in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity would be a start in the right direction. Another step in the right direction would be to designate English as the official language of the United States. Nothing divides people faster or more effectively than not speaking the same language.