Historical Blindness: Lillard Would Bar Foreigners
“We must have an uninterrupted period, in which we can create out-and-out Americans and an out-and-out spirit of Americanism.” – T.J. Lillard (The Charlotte News, February 26, 1919)
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
As we’re well into the celebration of Charlotte’s 250th anniversary, we think it’s fitting to unveil “Historical Blindness,” a new feature in The Biscuit dedicated to exploring the news of the day in Charlotte … from exactly 100 years ago.
Now, it’s not completely fair to judge people from 100 years ago by today’s standards, but it IS appropriate to measure ourselves today against where we were back then. Where are we now against the opinions of 1919? Are we still struggling with the same issues? What have we learned? What are we still learning?
Take into account this citizen commentary from The Charlotte News on February 26, 1919.
If we hadn’t told you the piece above was 100 years old in advance, would you have known?
Without delving into politics, it’s safe to say that if Mr. Lillard’s sentiments popped up on Twitter or Facebook or a blog today, they would fit right into some of the discourse already underway. We’d bet few would guess that Woodrow Wilson was in the White House and World War I had just ended when they first saw publication.
A century later, we’re still struggling as a community and a nation with how we feel about immigrants’ impact on the United States of America.
Before we brush those feelings off as bygone sentiments, we must admit that a significant amount of the debate about immigration these days – while mired in a discussion of legal status and walls – is infused by a fear of how disparate cultures, opinions, histories and perspectives will affect the American melting pot and the economy. Fear that immigrants will somehow destroy, instead of enriching, the experience of those who were born within our borders. That’s certainly what Mr. Lillard was addressing. And, many still are.
So, let’s cut to the chase.
Mr. Lillard, we at The Biscuit, are not with your opinions from 1919 … or with those agree with your sentiments about diversity in 2019.
Discussions of legal immigration are complex and we’ll leave those alone today in light of the fact that Mr. Lillard’s opininos — and those underlying too much of the discussion around immigration today — are less about keeping legal order in the immigration system and more about keeping people outside the country today exactly where they are … out.
In comparison, we are excited about the international communities that have chosen to make Charlotte their home. And, we’ll be exploring and celebrating how how the diversity of culture and creativity are shaping the future of our city in future batches of The Biscuit.
Different cultures, different perspectives, different beliefs bring with them incredible creativity and possibility and opportunities for us to see the world in new ways through the eyes of others.
We believe that when we can all agree on love – of each other, our work, our city, and our country – our differences make us stronger.
And, if The Biscuit is still publishing on February 26, 2119, it’s our belief that the “out-and-out spirit of Americanism” at work in the Queen City will be one defined by the depth of understanding and the beautiful dynamism that the differences between us can create.
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