Diversity is one of the great strengths of Kennett. When I was in 5th grade I was just as likely to be beaten up on the playground by a white kid as a black kid. But my close friends were pretty much all white. I got to know the Hispanics and Blacks from sports and class but they were never really close friends. I might add, I did have friends who grew up to identify themselves as “deplorables”.
This diversity taught me that what I learned in church was true, that we are all God’s children; equally valuable and need to be recognized and included in the World’s Family. Although, we still need to face the fact that Sunday at noon is the most segregated hour of the day in America.
Thirty years later, I was interviewing a Senior Vice President of manufacturing who was retiring from DuPont and I asked how the company had changed. He said; “When I started at the company, we had only three problems---Blacks, Women, and Cans.” The Cans were the big containers that the Orlon® would fall into when it came off of the spinning machines and if you ran out of Cans the yarn would run on to the floor.
The women were new; they had been employed to run the plant during WWII and they never left.President Eisenhower told company leadership to give black men an opportunity. Those who had always worked at custodial jobs were promoted from cleaning the plant to textile machine operator.
Today, the VP said now Blacks are all through the company and in the last year he had to fire 6 senior level white men for sexual harassment of women.
The CEO of DuPont was a woman when I retired and the President of the US was black. Yes, you have to say we’ve come a long way. Yet, with all of this, there is still prejudice, systemic racism and sexism in our society.
A thing that concerns me is the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. When you combine COVID-19, and the tensions with China and North Korea this might be a trend.There are 23 million Asians in the US and our treatment of some of them has been appalling.
With the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibiting immigration from China,which wasn’t reversed until 1924, and the Internment of Japanese American Families in WWII you wonder why it took so long to show itself.
Some of it may be that there is a stereotype of American Asians as smarter, richer and better educated than the rest of us. Asian and Pacific Islanders include 60 out of every 100 of the world’s population; not what you would call a minority.
There is a greater disparity in income between the top 10% of Asians in the US and the bottom 10% than there is for Blacks and Hispanics. The Asians are only 7% of the US population and now 7% have graduate degrees at over twice the rate of white Americans.
I was talking to a young Asian friend who is raising his family around Kennett. He agreed that Asians had done very well in his company in Asia where such a large part of the business was located and Hispanics did well in South America but in the US they only did about as well as the women and probably the Jewish population.
We talked about the robust opportunities for his family in Kennett. He mentioned expats from his country coming to the west. When they went back home, their kids had to go to international schools because they were introduced to so much opportunity and freedom here. We recognized the 13 National Merit® Scholarship finalists graduating from Unionville High School this year, representing many times more than the 7% Asian US population.
I told him that my definition of the American dream is having our children becoming the best version of themselves. He built on that by saying it was not just being the best version of yourself but one of creating wealth for the community and making it a better place as you give back to society.
He feels that this next generation is less prejudiced than his and mine. It still has the sense of “other”, who is different, and we all aren’t the same, but there is a culture of acceptance that wasn’t in our generations. This gives me great hope.
So, my advice is don’t pretend to be color blind, respect the individual differences of the people around you. Pick out the Asians and listen to their story. I think you will be surprised.
I talked about this to one of my doctors and she broke into tears, saying she couldn’t handle COVID without the hospital staff’s support. She had come to this country 15 years ago for an arranged marriage and was trying her best to raise her son.
Asians tend to be invisible to us and we seem to ignore them. Reach out. Help keep them from feeling the hate of prejudice and racism or just being ignored.They are one of the greatest resources of our community, just try Lily’s Asian Cuisine Restaurant for a starter.
Dr Seuss had one of my favorite books of his shelved (1937's “To Think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.”) because of stereotyped drawings of an Asian and African Americans which hurt a lot of people. But he also said: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”