The Two USA's


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

by Oscar Penaranda

I don’t know about you but more and more lately I’ve been seeing two USA’s. There is the USA of the white people and the USA of the people of color. There are two USA’s. There is the USA of the men and the USA of the women. There are two USA’s. There is the USA of the rich and the upper middle class who are trying to be rich and the USA of the poor and the working class people. There are two USA’s. There is the USA of the heterosexuals and the USA of the homosexuals. There are two USA’s. There is the USA of the Judeo-Christians and the USA of the non-Judeo Christians. There are two USA’s; there is the USA of the “able” and the USA of the “dis- abled”, even though the “disabled” are more able than some of the “ables”.
Which one are you? Where are you at? Which ones do you see?

Do you belong to the ones who want to dismantle the schism or do you belong to the ones who don’t care and by not caring and doing, keep the USA divided?

There are two USA’s. there is the USA of monoculturalism and the USA of multiculturalism. If it is not plural it is singular. For there are two USA’s. There is the USA who says E pluribus Unum and the USA who does E Pluribus Unum. There is the USA who says the constitution and the USA who lives and does the constitution.

There is the USA who would rather keep silent about racism the better to pretend that it does not exist anymore or that it might go away if left untouched or that things are much better now. And the USA who wants to have it out, dialogue, take actions, and dismantle the racism. And that not everything is better, and that some things are better but some things are just as bad, and some things even worse.

Which USA do you belong to in this continuum?

There are two USA’s. There is the USA who calls the USA America, and the USA who calls the USA, USA. Or Amerika with a “k”, or “U.S. American”. For the latter, America is a hemisphere, half the world, not just one country, a most inexact misnomer, not just geographiccally. For the former, and many, if not all, our leaders in politics (including presidents), and all our media of television newscasters and announcers of any event, films, all our schools including commissions of standardized tests, and as a result, an overwhelming majority of citizens, to them the place USA is synonymous with the place America. Ask the other Non-americans who live in America if they feel slighted, insulted, and bereft of their dignity and identities, when another country call their homeland’s name as only that country’s own.

Now this I don’t have to remind or point out to you. There are two USA’s. There is the USA of television and movies. Then there is the USA of reality and everyday living. California is now 56% people of color, and the whites a minority and continuously being surpassed in numbers all throughout the country. Yet everything reflected about California, in the movies, in T.V. programs are all overwhelmingly white. Sometimes exclusively white. That is not the real California, as what is being portrayed all throughout our T.V. and movie screen are not the real USA.

There are two USA’s. There is the USA of the textbooks and the curriculum and the USA that is not in the textbooks and the curriculum, even though in many cases their student population make up the majority of the people in the classrooms who read and study those books. Where do you stand here?

There are two USA’s, one with a heritage of one language and one with the heritage of more than one language. Where are you here?
There are two USA’s, one who sees only one USA or the one who sees the two. Which one are you now?

I see two USA’s. One that understands itself and one that sees largely an illusion of itself.

Like my ancestors before me, I too, see a one USA in the future. I too have visions of, not so much a main stream but one river upon which all the peoples of this USA can swim and sail and trade and create and be visible. Because we are the mainstream, we are a part of it (as well as being all of it) not apart from it.

Here we are on the eve of a new year, on the threshold of a new century, on the vista, the vantage point, of a new millennium...and I still see two USA’s.

Oscar Peñaranda
circa 12/99

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