The Changing Face of America

Back in prehistoric times when I was growing up, I taught myself to type on an old manual Smith-Corona, combed through index cards in the library’s catalogue for my term papers, and carried on a near daily correspondence with my teenage boyfriend who was away at boarding school.  In those days, going to the mail box at your home was exciting. You knew there might be something awaiting you beyond bills and flyers.

So much has changed in our technology and the experience of growing up in this country. But some rituals remain remarkably unchanged—like our children’s graduations, field days, or their school spring music recitals. I was reminded of this when I attended my six-year-old granddaughter’s Suzuki violin recital this past spring. There she stood front and center, the littlest kid on stage with the tiniest violin I’d ever seen. Brimming with excitement, she and her fellow students played their hearts out to the delight of their adoring parents and grandparents.

How many of these had I been to over the years? I’d lost count. It wasn’t just my own school performances or those of my sisters, but my children’s, and now my grandchildren’s. Other than the sophistication of the parents’ recording equipment, remarkably little had changed.

The participants in this annual rite of passage were a whole lot more diverse, however, than the lily white crowd I’d grown up with decades ago in Connecticut. At my granddaughter’s recital, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Syrian refugee, and Caucasian parents crowded together to celebrate their children’s accomplishments.  As I made my way to my car afterward, I walked behind a lesbian couple whose daughter happily skipped along between them holding their hands while recounting the “best parts” of the concert.

America’s face is changing. When I was growing up, I would never have imagined that our society would have evolved to the point where we understood that love was what mattered and celebrated and supported all kinds of families. Nor did I envision a time when whites would be the new minority, at least numerically, slated to happen within a few short years.

I like this new face of America. It’s much more interesting and much more reflective of the global world in which we live. I like celebrating our differences as well as the commonalities that bind us—like the love and hopes we harbor for our children, so apparent that night at my granddaughter’s recital.

Yet we have so much work to do to achieve a genuinely inclusive and just society, so painfully apparent in the tragedies of the past weeks in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, and elsewhere.  Pockets of homopohobia, along with institutionalized racism, injustice, and inequality, continue to plague our nation. It’s up to all of us to work to make our amazingly diverse country live up to its promises of genuine equality and justice for all.

Those beautiful children I saw up on stage at their violin recital are counting on us.

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