As we approach 4th of July weekend, millions of Americans will be eating that quintessential symbol of the USA. But, as the article points out, hot dogs were an “invention” of German immigrants, who sold their traditional sausages from street carts in their new country.
“If I had been celebrating Independence Day 150 years ago, however, [they] wouldn’t have been on the menu. In those days, Germans weren’t considered Americans, or even white. When they fought over the most lucrative street corner for food vendors [against Italian immigrants] in the 1880s, the press called the incidents “race riots.”
The identity of America is constantly evolving. The question “Who is an American?” is not as easily answered as many nativists would like to believe.
Restrictionists have frozen images of a “true” America, as though our identity hasn’t changed since 1776. Stasis, however, is a fiction. Cultures do not stand still, nor should we want them to. We have the chance now to remake our immigration policy in the modern era, not by taking it back to the 1920s, but by grappling honestly with the fact that the American identity is always undergoing cultural change. Modernity challenges us to create a policy that recognizes the full humanity of all immigrants without regard to their racial identity.
So, as we gear up for 4th of July picnics, pool parties and cookouts, let’s remember that our identity has been molded and changed by a wonderfully diverse array of cultures, backgrounds and traditions. And it is still evolving. As it should be.
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