I just opened up my daily email from the Catholic News Agency. As usual, there were some interesting articles in it. There was one about “Pope Francis’ 8 strongest statements against abortion” and another about “Australian bishops begin nine-month Plenary Council.” But a third article really caught my eye: “Notre Dame to host 31st Annual Black Catholic Theological Symposium.” Right above the article was an advertisement for the symposium with an African-American looking Christ on the cross.
This got me thinking. It seems that over the past three decades or so, a new form of segregation is being imposed on America. We have Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We have Black chambers of commerce, Hispanic chambers of commerce, Native American chambers of commerce, and Asian American chambers of commerce. We have separate bar associations for Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. We have Black medical associations, Hispanic medical associations, Native American medical associations, and Asian American medical associations. At universities, we have dormitories and “safe spaces” reserved exclusively for Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, and some colleges even have separate graduation ceremonies for minorities. We have academic scholarships available only to minorities. We have conferences for Black Catholics. And the list goes on and on.
What all of these organizations, scholarships, and events have in common is that they make people in our country think of themselves not primarily as Americans, but first and foremost as members of particular racial and ethnic groups. They are turning our national motto of “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One) upside down, to “Ex Uno Pluria” (Out of One, Many). And the worst part of all this is that it is not racist whites who are creating this new form of segregation but rather members of the minority groups themselves. Leaders of these groups want minorities to consider themselves not as Americans, but rather as “African-Americans,” “Hispanic-Americans,” “Asian-Americans,” etc.; not as American Catholics, but as “Black Catholics,” “Hispanic Catholics,” and the like.
But there is great danger in this. As President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) warned us over a hundred years ago:
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism…The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality….”
All Americans who love their country should strongly oppose this modern form of self-segregation that divides America along lines of race and ethnicity. We should encourage all people, of all races and ethnicities, to consider themselves simply as “Americans,” the greatest title there is. Should we fail to do this, America will continue down the path of Balkanization; and as we saw in Yugoslavia, this is a path we want to avoid at all costs.