America is a nation of immigrants. You hear it all the time, especially from the left.
The thing is… it’s not true. Sure, America is a nation where a majority of the population are immigrants or descended from immigrants. But it’s also a nation of the descendants of colonists, descendants of slaves, and Indigenous people from coast to coast. The old “America is a melting pot” phrase actually more accurately represents the fact that this nation is made up of people from everywhere in the world and people from the Americas.
When you hear Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders waxing philosophic about our “nation of immigrants” to fight isolationism and Trumpism it feels right. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted something similar. “America is a nation of immigrants, “the newly elected Congresswoman wrote. “Without immigrants, we are not America.”
As an Indigenous American and not an immigrant, I’d like to say, “Hi! Do I get to be America too … yet … ever?”
Though it’s disappointing, the use of the phrase without caveats by Ocasio-Cortez isn’t that surprising. AOC has close ties to Bernie Sanders, who tosses the term around a lot. The modern popularity of the line itself goes back to President Kennedy, who wrote a book titled A Nation of Immigrants.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time that any Indigenous American has heard it and felt frustrated by the exclusionary tone of that phrase. Still, it’s 2019 and we know America is so much more than just immigrants. Indigenous voices, Black voices, LGBTQI voices, and female voices are louder now than ever. So we have to ask, is it not time to move on from this monolithic idea of America as a singular nation of immigrants? It is, after all, looking back at America through very rose-tinted glasses — the kind boomers likely wore to Woodstock — to think that way.
Indigenous voices on Twitter were quick to point out the fallacy implied by Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet.
And here’s where something cool happened: Ocasio-Cortez isn’t from the old guard and she gets social media. Within a few short hours, she thoughtfully responded. “Thank you for pointing this out. … I’ll be more careful moving forward!”
That’s all it takes, folks. Listen to disenfranchised voices when they have a concern, learn, acknowledge, move on. We don’t have to cancel anyone. They don’t need to step down. There is no long and winding process of penance.
Listen, learn, and get better. Why can’t all politicians be this cool?