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Salad bowls: a reflection on race

| Friday, April 11, 2014

“As I was in South Dining Hall, feasting on corned beef and cabbage, garbed in green and surrounded by an emerald brigade of students and staff, I realized something. Although the U.S. celebration of the feast of St. Patrick is a commemoration of Irish culture, I think it’s only fitting that we also remember the great American immigrant experience in general, of which we are all grateful beneficiaries. Whether it has been war, famine, or just the prospect of a better life, our forefathers (and foremothers) all made the calculated decision to leave their home countries to reach these shores lined with so much promise. We are a nation of immigrants, a rich patchwork of races and cultures, and it makes sense that we eat, drink, and be merry on this particular day. So I tip my hat to all migrant families, workers, and their progeny. Today, we’re all Irish (whether ethnically or “Fighting”), and today we celebrate all those who came before so that we who walk in their footsteps might pursue the American Dream.”
In this Facebook status of 176 words, I attempted to encapsulate the overwhelming sentiment of Notre Dame community pride I felt on St. Patrick’s Day. Today, the campus is no longer celebrating, but is boiling over like a pot of the steamed cabbage, the same cabbage which we had just dined on four weeks ago, but now embroiled in a controversy about a lady in red.
The United States has been described as a melting pot of peoples, a cultural chowder, a populist potage and a brotherly broth. The melting pot is a metaphor describing the Americanization of immigrants, obliging them to lose whatever makes them different for the sake of assimilating with the rest of the country. The national identity, our collective “Americanness,” had to be preserved and so that is why newcomers had to speak English to the detriment of their native tongues and why many had to adopt Westernized dress. This melting-pot mentality is also why my grandmother, who became a U.S. citizen a few years ago was asked whether she wanted to change her name (“Divina Gracia Corpuz Llanes”) to something a bit more homogenized (which she, thanks be to God, refused, replying in her characteristic proud manner that her name reflects her Catholic faith and means “Divine Grace” and “Body of Christ.”)
While I do contend that melting-pot imagery does indeed have its benefits, I prefer the more contemporary idea that the United States is a salad bowl. The salad bowl refers not to a nutritional vegan utopia, but to a society wherein diversity is celebrated and not merely tolerated. Salad bowl symbolism recognizes that ethnic groups will be tossed around, yet never subsumed into a particular one — slicing and dicing stereotypes and garnishing them with the flavorful croutons of coexistence. “Americanness” should not be measured by how similar we all are to each other, but by the diversity that renders our great nation unique. Ours is a common patrimony of frontier folklore and patriotic practices, a national heritage made more complex and beautiful by the rich diversity of its citizens. I certainly agree that we should do our very best to promote the traditions that distinguish the United States, but to do so in a manner which does not actively eradicate our differences or ignores their existence altogether.
As a member of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame, I actively choose to celebrate all forms of diversity. It would be foolish for us to consider “diversity” as applying only to non-whites. While many individuals on campus do hold this belief, this is an attitude that ignores the distinctive differences between Germans and Spaniards, between the French and the Polish, between Russians and Italians. The Diversity Council welcomes all perspectives to our meetings and events, as do the so-called “racially exclusive special interest clubs,” which compose the board. Yes, it is true that with names like “National Society of Black Engineers” or “Latino Student Alliance,” the cultural clubs may appear to dissuade those who do not fit their categories from joining. The cultural clubs should not, however, be reduced to mere gatherings of people who look the same. All are welcome to participate in such student organizations and experience the sense of belonging they offer to those who may feel different. As a campus community, we should attempt to better understand this nebulous notion of “being different” which affects one half of the University and seems to be irrelevant for the other half.
I write as a registered Republican and a Filipino-American wanting to express the importance of conducting a frank dialogue about diversity and inclusion. I write as a Californian who grew up in one of the poorest cities in America, in the Central Valley heartland cultivated by generations of Filipino and Mexican migrants. I write as a concerned Notre Dame student who recognizes that the fruit of the ongoing debate about Ann Coulter is that people are now willing to talk about race relations. It is true we no longer live in an age of rampant racism, but we should not remain stagnant in the opposite extreme and pretend that we have already established a society free of cultural stigmas and prejudices, a post-race utopia.
So go on: cry wolf and awaken others from their slumber of indifference. Be bold and let your opinions, your prejudices and your ideas out. Risk being correct and risk being corrected. A dialogue can only be mutually transformative if we engage each other through an honest exchange of experiences.

Prinz Jeremy Llanes Dela Cruz
Morrissey Manor
April 11

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

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  • Johnny Whichard

    I really appreciate this article as a moderate opinion on the current flare of debate on our campus. I would, however, like to state my opinion. Titles such as the “Black Student Association” do not encourage people who don’t look like the target members to join. CULTURE clubs should be based on culture. Racial appearances SHOULD NEVER MATTER. Have all the culture clubs you want, but leave titles like “black” and “Latino” out of it. Such names generalize differences and dissuade others from joining. They also alienate people who can’t identify with race. I mean, ask my Viewpoint nemesis Katrina Linden who has a huge issue of being of Mexican and German descent (she claims to look white but identify as Mexican and as such she is conflicted from both parties, supposedly). Our culture needs to move on from physical features. Let’s focus on awesome cultures. History, food, music, religion. These are the things we should focus on…not antagonistic “we are victims because our ancestors were victims of an oppressive society…btw some ignorant white kid said something insensitive and now I claim all of ND kids are racist.” Culture clubs get us somewhere…RACE based clubs do not. I encourage every human being to be color blind. If an Asian kid who was raised in Africa identifies as African, I wouldn’t flinch for a second…but race-based clubs would.

    • Walter

      As a white American who talked with and at one point joined the African Students Association, this is false for at least this club, and my talks and experiences with others tells me that members of many (if not all) of the diversity clubs in no way are against other ethnicities, races, cultures, etc. joining the club. These clubs are about celebrating culture, which is what you say they should be. You’re the one making the name bring a negative connotation to the discussion.

      Have you ever tried joining one of these diversity clubs? Sit down with the members at lunch? Attend an event with them? I think if you had, you would know what you said is false.

      On another note, how can you say that we should focus on history, etc. while lambasting those who say “we are the victims because our ancestors were victims of an oppressive society?” Just because people no longer own slaves does not mean that the world is suddenly just, equal, and happy. This is why Notre Dame is often said to exist in a bubble. Students, like you, are unaware of the present state of society, its relationship to the history of this country (and the world), and what some people in this country still endure. I say this as a White man who never endured such hardships but through discussions, experiences, readings, and actions have learned of what others grow up with. It is only by embracing this and the differences of our backgrounds that we will create a community of love, respect, and compassion. Sometimes it hurts to hear the truth, but the truth will bring us to a better society, not telling all to conform and stop sharing their negative experiences.

      • Johnny Whichard

        Did you forget about the Irish? Did you forget about the nuclear family? Did your forget about the dependence of government “aid”? Did your forget about racial-profiling college acceptances?

        • Based on your two comments and their timestamps, I have to assume you were drunk. There is really no other explanation. Like really man. Check your privilege.

          • WAP1102

            There goes the liberal name calling defense, again.

        • Um…no

          Please explain how exactly the “nuclear family” being discriminated against in this day and age. Last time I checked, men and women could get marry each other and have children as they pleased. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen heterosexual couples face unfair legal obstacles, judgment from others, hate speech, criticism of their abilities as parents, others demeaning their lifestyle as a sinful abomination, etc.

          • Um…no

            Doh. I meant “marry” or “get married”.

    • Dude are you drunk

    • Juan

      You don’t like groups to have “black”, “Latino”, etc. descriptions on their name, but I am pretty sure that you have no problem in labeling yourself as Catholic. And that you don’t oppose to groups having the Catholic word on them. Your true colors show.

    • Preston

      How can you have a club that wants to discuss and celebrate Black or Latino culture without having “Black” or “Latino” in the club’s name? That’s like having a sci-fi club without having “sci-fi” in the name.

  • Peter Castle

    Coulter tends to speak in controversial terms, and, when talking about immigration, has been race-obsessed for two decades. Ann Coulter sees the whole of life through the lens of race and class and thus injects race into many scenarios. See Vanity: Ann Coulter’s Quest for Glory for more details, available at http://www.coulterwatch.com/vanity.pdf.

    • WAP1102

      Times have changed. When my mother and father emigrated from Belgium to the USA in 1920 — following the WW-One destruction of their home and property in Belgium — America desperately needed skilled workers – and even unskilled workers. That’s not true anymore. Over 22 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Real unemployment is between 12% and 16%, based on traditional metrics. America desperately needs jobs for under-skilled workers – not more under-skilled workers. This has nothing to do with racism – it simply a fact of present day demographics. Facts are such painful things, aren’t they?

      William A. Pauwels, Sr.
      ND 1960

      • Matt

        Let’s see some sources for that 12-16% unemployment rate, buddy. Sure, realistic unemployment is always going to be a bit higher than what the common formula now indicates, but we’re looking at a 6.7% unemployment rate right now. There’s no way real unemployment is twice that high.

        • WAP1102

          Matt . . . The Obama administration changed the method of reporting. They no longer count discouraged workers, i.e., people who drop out of the workforce.

          See http://www.cnbc.com/id/101398855 for the real unemployment rate – what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “U-6,” which it defines as “total unemployed.”

          There are other statistics that are equally severe. Go to Google for more facts. In any case, don’t be fooled by the deceptive Obama administration. Our country is at stake.

          All the best! . . . William A. Pauwels, Sr.

          • Matt

            Okay, you got me on the U-6 number, but I’m not sure you can hold how unemployment is calculated against Obama. I’ve not found any sources indicating this, and as far as I’m aware, the formula the government publishes has been the same for a very long time.

          • WAP1102

            Not trying to get anyone. Just don’t want anyone to be deceived by the de facto Marxist/Socialists in Washington and in the leftist media. See the Bureau of Labour Statistic history for year-to-year comparisons. Since Obama became president, the population has increased by 14 million. The percentage of hours worked has decreased in proportion to the population. Also the average family income has decreased by about $5000. Obama’s big government, entitlement strategy has failed– as other socialist regimes have failed over the years.

          • Matt

            That doesn’t explain nor indicate a change of the formula. Have your gripe with Obama, sir, but don’t make up lies about the math. The math’s the same, and ranting that Obama changed it just makes you look foolish. Don’t do that to yourself.

  • WAP1102

    Johnny Whichard ‘s comment’s below are right on.
    William A. Pauwels, Sr.
    ND 1960

  • rogerclegg

    Re “melting pot” versus “salad bowl” and assimilation: We don’t have to eat the take identical paths on everything, but we do need to have some things in common for a multi-ethnic society to work. Here’s my top-ten list of what we should expect from those
    who want to become Americans (and those who are already Americans, for that
    matter). The list was first published in a National Review Online column a
    decade ago [link: http://old.nationalreview.com/comment/comment091200d.shtml ], and it is fleshed out in Congressional testimony [link: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/May2007/Clegg070523.pdf ]:

    1. Don’t disparage anyone else’s race or ethnicity.

    2. Respect women.

    3. Learn to speak English.

    4. Be polite.

    5. Don’t break the law.

    6. Don’t have children out of wedlock.

    7. Don’t demand anything because of your race or ethnicity.

    8. Don’t view working and studying hard as “acting white.”

    9. Don’t hold historical grudges.

    10. Be proud of being an American.

  • Johnny Whichard

    The comments on my previous post exemplify my point. Best of luck to the pro-race people in our community…it looks like they have already won. I’m sorry for trying to bring a “race-doesn’t-matter” approach to Notre Dame…I thought we were bigger than that.

    • You’re familiar with Stephen Colbert, right? And his character’s stance on race? He always says “I don’t see race, people tell me I’m white and I believe them.” It is a terrifically on-point satirization of white people who hold your views with respect to race. It is tremendously short-sighted and ignorant. Take your time at ND as an opportunity to learn about race, please.