In my blood run both Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes; my maternal grandfather’s French family settled in the Natchez Trace. I’m not a blue-eyed Cherokee – the object of scorn to Native Americans.
None of my European antecedents arrived in this country after the Civil War; no ancestor went through Ellis Island, which may be why the name carries the peculiar final vowel, plaguing the more numerous Meachams. My forefathers and mothers knew who they were; they brooked no bureaucrat’s misspelling, as late 19th and early 20th centuries’ new arrivals were forced to do.
By the times of the massive German, Irish and Italian arrivals, the southern Meachums were settled in the Virginia and North Carolina hills; they were stubborn Scotch Irish. I’m aggravated beyond means when pseudo-intellectuals insist on “Scottish Irish.” They had no truck with the native Irish when Oliver Cromwell deported families from Scotland, sometimes in prison ships.
The Scotch Irish were the original Rednecks. Once ensconced in their mountains they did not differentiate among the strangers who poked around; they were flatlanders called by different names, but still outsiders. After the Revolution settled down, my clansmen and kin were prime candidates for the virulent American Party; it sprang up because of the hordes of Germans and Irish pouring in, particularly because of their faith.
English and Scottish townspeople believed Catholics wanted to install the pope in the White House. Because of their usual sternly negative answers to questions about what the new party stood for, most people knew them as the Know Nothings. They staged riots against the newcomers. Washington’s Naval Yard cannons rolled out to try to quell their riots ignited by hatred of foreigners. (The dictionary shows those feelings are properly called xenophobia, a good Greek label that means “fear of anything foreign.”)
At least, 21st Century citizens have not gone as far as civil disobedience in their hostility toward immigrants; the speeches and the individual anger rarely choose between the legal and their contraband fellows. They have uttered defamations and trash-talking not heard about fellow European Americans since a mob hanged 11 Italians in my hometown; the mob reacted because accused members of the Sicilian mafia were found not guilty.
The murder and violence visited upon African-American ex-slaves included those who were never owned by another human being – but that’s an entirely different subject.
German blood is now the most common among long-term residents in the United States, followed closely by Irish strains. But some of the heirs of those earlier immigrants are out in front of the current wave of hysteria about Latinos.
Let me be very clear: I am morally and intellectually comfortable with the federal I.C.E. (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) agency and Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins; they are deporting now only illegals who cross the laws. No matter their status, those men and woman should be expelled because of arrant stupidity: If someone is so dumb as to commit an act that causes arrest, then no country needs them, especially the United States.
For the rest without I.C.E. papers, as I’ve written before, they come and stay here for the economic advantages. If you doubt that premise, then visit local fast-food establishments and notice that the crew, in almost every location, is totally Latino. Examine faces when driving by a construction site; regard the olive-skinned workers. Legal or illegal, immigrants from Central and South America form the largest minority, eclipsing blacks. In some communities, descendents of Europeans are less than 51 percent of the population – and scarcely the majority.
No matter the demonstrations or possibly rioting that might come, my blue-eyed grandchildren will end up voting for brown-eyed and brown-skinned candidates – as their fellow Americans floated Barack Obama into the White House.
All the screaming invectives, indignation and shouting curses will not change the future; it’s happening right now, despite many people’s discomfort and fears.