I can believe almost anything about how immigrants were treated in the past in the U.S., especially blacks and Hispanics. Once upon a time, during a U.S. History course, I had the sobering realization that in early seventeenth-century Jamestown people were starving to death, essentially because they didn’t simply go out and grow some corn. The fact that the local tribes regularly attempted to teach them how to do so. Instead, they raided the tribes, killing them all and looting the corn. I think that falls under the definition of failing to “learn how to fish,” and furthermore killing the teacher.
Of course, once the colonists found out that tobacco was worth money as an export crop, farming became rampant; everyone moved away from camp and got their own farm, so they could buy all the food they needed with their tobacco proceeds. That is the epitome of the flaws of a capitalist economy, and what is wrong with our economy today. Don’t misunderstand; capitalism is still the best economic model invented, but we see the effects today of the notion that the best way to provide sustenance is to sell as much of something, however harmful it might be (not that the Jamestown settlers knew it), to generate wealth, and therefore gain the power to lavish oneself with material excesses. Once these settlers realized they could earn far more money, and spend it even faster, by forcing Africans and other forced immigrants to do the labor, they had it made.
This comes to mind as a result of a conversation with my late father about our family tree. He once mailed me a host of information he gathered in the 90’s so I could pick up the trail, and felt the need to apologize since much of it is probably inaccurate. He cited the fact that his mother, and several of her cousins, were all married on their twenty-first birthdays. Remarkable coincidence, no? Furthermore, most everyone knows the story of a person’s ancestors who came to the states and changed the spelling of their name, simply because it was easier to get into the country that way.
It seems that 200 years later, we’re no better. I have a Swiss friend who was called an idiot by immigration, coming into (of all places) New York one day. This despite the fact that he has a working visa and had lived here more than two years at the time. I’ve heard a number of European colleagues tell me that they’d waited their whole lives to come to the United States, and when they came into New York, the place they had dreamed of seeing since childhood, the trip quickly became frightening since the immigration area is made intentionally uninviting, and the attendants in the area are beyond businesslike; they are downright rude and condescending to immigrants.
It’s a wonder anyone at all comes in the legal way, when it’s so much easier to swim in and not deal with being put down for being foreign.
I just hope that someday we can all get past the petty differences imposed on the world’s citizens by wealthy old white men who drew lines arbitrarily on the globe, and deal with some real problems.