Right now, in American politics, there is a fair amount of xenophobic rhetoric being tossed around by a couple of major political figures. There is talk of mass deportations and of walls and of stricter immigration policies—all of which is enough to make one believe that the United States is in some sort of state of emergency. There is a lot of negative immigration talk in the news, and not a whole lot of positive, constructive discussion.
But I recently came across an article called “Nevada Shines Light onto America’s Future,” which deviates from the “immigrants are ruining the country” jargon, and I think that its message is rather important for Americans to keep in mind.
The article talks about how Nevada, having gone from one of the smallest, most homogeneously white states in the nation to a populous immigrant hub, has set itself ahead as a frontrunner in cultural incorporation in their communities. Focusing on Clark County in particular (home of Las Vegas and 75 percent of the state’s population), the article goes on to describe how the state has proactively made efforts to introduce and celebrate the culture of its various ethnic groups. Take, for example, Las Vegas’s Day of the Dead celebration, which quietly draws a crowd of over 9,000 every year, making it Clark County’s largest annual event.
The message of the article is an interesting one—Clark County seems to be setting a good example for the rest of the United States to follow. Census data projects that by 2043 there will be a non-white majority in the United States. A significant demographic shift is on the horizon in America, and rather than resist it, we should embrace it, as Clark County is doing.
I think that is the mindset that Americans have to—and really, ought to—foster when it comes to immigration. When I think about the United States and its immigration policy, I am always reminded of this awesome Jon Stewart sketch, where he says, “the United States is a nation of immigrants that always hates the next immigrants.”
And it is true, to an extent. Not too long ago, instead of anxiety over the Latino immigrants, Americans were prejudice toward Italian immigrants or Irish immigrants. Today it seems ridiculous to think that an American with an Italian last name could be racially profiled, but we are not far from a time when that was the case.
Vince Lombardi, probably the most successful and prolific NFL head coach in history, had a great deal of trouble getting his career to take off because he faced prejudice for his Italian roots. Similarly, not long before that, there was rampant reluctance to accept Irishmen into American society when they came by the boatload at the turn of the century (hopefully, in history, you read about the “Irish need not apply” signs that hung in shop windows).
I suppose what I am trying to say is that the United States, while almost completely populated by immigrants, has some real problems with accepting the next batch to come along.
Groups come here looking for a new start from all sorts of places and for all sorts of reasons. But eventually, all smoothly coalesce into one American identity. I find it a little bizarre that we are still having trouble coping with new immigrant populations, though history has shown us again and again that immigration and the United States are two inextricably linked concepts.
So I think that it is great that Las Vegas is hosting large Day of the Dead festivals. It only makes sense, seeing as Hispanics make up over 17 percent of the country’s population, a figure that is constantly on the rise. Hopefully Clark County does serve as an example, like the article suggests, and that more places will celebrate their community’s diversity rather than fear it.