Multiculturalism: The New Normal
As the holidays get closer, and I try to catch up, we here at the Cain household are working on getting it all ready – from decorations to meals in preparation.
My kids are most excited about the dinner that I prepare for Christmas each year and it has become something very sacred, with my teen already promising that even after he gets married he will always come back to his parent’s house for his mama’s Christmas dinner.
My husband wants us to smoke the turkey this year, a technique he recently saw highlighted in the New York Times. I am more preoccupied with where I will find the spicy chorizo for the cornbread and chorizo stuffing. Meanwhile, my teen is licking his chops at thought of pernil (roast pork shoulder). “And make sure you make the green bean casserole (a dish I picked up from my husband’s Wisconsin family).” The only thing the younger ones care about is the pastelitos – Dominican empanadas that I stuff with seasoned and shredded chicken breast, a recipe learned from my grandmother.
But these conversations are not just about food; they are a symbol of who we are as a family. For my children pastelitos and pernil, served with creamy mashed potatoes and green bean casserole is the norm. Listening to Nat King Cole and festive merengues while I cook is nothing unique or different.
While there is a lot of conversation going on about how the face of America is changing, for my family multiculturalism is nothing new. It is their every day life. My children aren’t growing up questioning why there’s a new ethnic kid in school – though they might wonder if there were not. My children aren’t growing up intimidated by what is different from them; they are in fact pretty nonchalant about it. My 5 year old has a crush on an Asian girl in his class; the fact that she is Asian doesn’t register with him. My teen has friends as diverse as the family he lives in, the things that bond them being around topics of sports or video games.
In listening to my kids go back and forth about various food items that represent one culture or another, without much thought to how special that is, I realize that this apprehension us adults hear about in the news regarding the shrinking majority or growing minority, is not one my kids share. My kids don’t consider themselves the minorities of any group, and whatever groups they may classify themselves into later on will be determined by the influences they grow up in.
I don’t want to sound as if I believe or even agree with the fact that we are a post-racial society. Read the continued comments and remarks in the political space to date and it is clear racism (as well as classism) is a live and well. But I am hoping that those dinosaurs will die out and that the ever growing multicultural trends they complain so much about takes over quickly enough so that my kids will live in a world, even outside of their family and home where multiculturalism is the new normal for everyone. I want my children to grow up proud of their cultural heritage, which is a beautiful mix of many, and I want them to be comfortable in filling their own lives with the same long after we are gone.
In the meantime, my husband and I will continue to influence them however we can, so that our blended cultures as one they can later pass on and share with their own children. The fact that we can do this is probably one of the things I am most grateful for every year.