I found myself getting a bit annoyed on Martin Luther King Day and not just because I didn’t get the day off. I had NPR on in the background most of the afternoon and listened to the various tributes to Dr. King going on across the country. However, every time they mentioned him, they had to say he was a great African-American. I’m not arguing the point. I think he was a great African-American too. However, I would go further and say he was a great American.
There are an awful lot of ways to be divided in America from the slicing and dicing of marketing demographics to the more sinister racial profiling. Being separate was the law of the land for the better part of a century. Ironically, people like Dr. Martin Luther King protested, fought, argued, debated and eventually overthrew that rule… and then we proceeded to add hyphens to everyone’s American-ness. A hyphen does the same duty as a minus sign in math; it subtracts. It takes away from the accomplishments by reducing the set of people used as comparison.
If you want to get technical, I’m an Anglo-Scottish-Irish-Welsh-German-Polish-Lithuanian American. That doesn’t even count my religious affiliation or political persuasion. Some make it a point of pride to be associated by common heritage. He makes a good point; that must be the [insert stereotype of choice here] in him. However, all too often, people use the labels to demean someone when they disagree. Isn’t that just like a [insert stereotype of choice here] to say something like that?