Today we’re in the middle of the biggest culture war since the 1960’s. As with every culture war in American history, it’s a fight to shape the future. Will everyone have a seat at the table regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and gender? Or will some people be more equal than others, to paraphrase George Orwell?
Since no one can see the future, most of us look to the past. The past is usually interpreted nostalgically as we think about the good things that have happened. But nostalgia is also a trap. The past was never as idyllic as our rose colored glasses make it seem.
People of color, whether black, Hispanic, or American Indian, were enslaved by Europeans from the conquistadors to the old South. Then they were airbrushed out of the history books. Women were also airbrushed out of history. They existed only as a wife, a mother, or a daughter; never as an adult person with an individual identity.
The blurred vision of nostalgia is easy to demonstrate. Lots of people like to dress up in antebellum clothes and Confederate uniforms and imagine living at Tara. Not one of them wants to put on rags and live in a cabin on slave row. Lots of people have a dream-catcher dangling from the rear view mirror of their vehicle. Not one of them wants to be a child torn from their family and sent to an Indian school to be starved and beaten into forced assimilation.
Rather than distorting our vision with nostalgia, we should recognize that times change. We’ve all learned to use computers and video conferencing. Our parents and grandparents have too. The current pandemic is made bearable for many of us because we can buy everything we need over the internet and have it delivered to our doorstep. Yet each new technological change caused fear until we learned to adapt to the change.
Rather than fighting the changes and trying to recreate a false past, we should embrace the fact that our culture has already changed. The proof of our new culture is in our food choices. From soul food to sushi, tacos to corned beef, fry bread to matzos, and tapas to injera, Americans of all races, religions, ethnicities and gender are already seated at the table. That’s a brilliant future.
Norma Shirk is an author, speaker, business owner and an attorney. In 2011, she founded Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, LLC (www.complianceriskadvisor.com), a human resources consulting firm for small employers.
She writes a weekly blog that alternates between human resources issues (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) and history (History by Norma, www.normashirk.com). She is also a founder and monthly contributor to the Her Savvy blog, www.hersavvy.com. In 2018, she published, Psycho Bosses and Obnoxious Co-Workers, an amusing look at workplace behavior.
Ms. Shirk frequently speaks to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from human resources issues to historical events and persons.
She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.