I remember a visit to my grandmothers house when I was about 11 years old. My sister who was a couple of years older had her first boyfriend, and he was visiting with us. My mother introduced him to my grandmother, and then everyone rushed out of the kitchen to go play, except me. I stayed there lingering for a few minutes longer.., probably trying to figure out how to sneak one of her molasses cookies.
My grandmother looked at my mother horrified and said “She can’t marry that boy, his family is Italian and Catholic.” I of course could not imagine how she would know this.., or even what it meant. I had not really heard of Catholic. Or if I had, I couldn’t remember what it meant. But even more than that, I remember saying “Are they getting married”? I couldn’t imagine that two 8th graders would be getting married. Where would they live? Would they have to leave school and go to work?
Of course, my mothers was a little stunned and maybe amused by the reaction. She calmed my grandmother down by reminding her that they were years away from crossing that bridge.
But this is how it use to be. Catholics married Catholics, Jewish married Jewish, Japanese married Japanese, Blacks married Blacks and WASP married WASP. There were not only cultural, racial and ethnic traditions and expectations around this; there had been laws! It was probably only five years before this that the Supreme Court overruled existing laws that prohibited interracial marriages. (Not that I was aware of this at the time… heck, I didn’t even know there were Catholics in our midst.)
My how times have changed. Many of these walls have been torn down. Interracial, interfaith marriages are common. Add to that marriage equality for same-sex couples (like my interracial one!).., and you truly begin to see the melting pot that we have become.
This does not mean that everyone is comfortable or on-board with all of these shifts and changes. There are many people who were brought up in communities and/or households that had very strict views on this (and still do!).
So not only are we shifting and changing on a rapid basis… We are also resisting it. There is momentum towards acceptance and tolerance of all types of relationships. And there are those who have known generations of strict protocol and defined acceptability. They want to hold on to the way it was, when for them the structure and limitations provided a sense of safety from the unknown…
Because really, if you are a particular race or faith and you never have to interact with someone of a different race or faith~life is easier. You only have to comprehend one set of beliefs, traditions, attitudes, and everything else that goes into family/cultural/religious dynamics! You stay within your own norm and everything is more predictable. As a result, you feel safe.
But my how we are changing!
In the past, when we talked about “the melting pot”, we were describing the co-existence of many different groups. You could go to any major city and find the areas where different groups were predominant. In fact some of them so predominant you would think you were transported to another country.
Now, we are moving beyond coexisting. We are commingling, combining and co-creating. Pretty soon, the neat little boxes that they put on forms that have you self-identify your race, heritage and or gender will have to have so many boxes that it will need to be its own form!
And mind you all of these changes are NEW! We’re talking the last 50 years! That is not a very long time to change thousands of years of history, structure and restrictions; let alone embedded beliefs and biases. We have progressed.., AND we are still in transition!
We are moving from individual ingredients in this melting pot to something new and completely different! We will no longer be identify ourselves carrots, potatoes, noodles, cilantro, curry, rice, chicken, lamb, onions, broth,… or