Most of the discussion of racism in the US are “ain’t it awful” laments that ignore the dirty little secret of America: That people face less racism in the US than in the rest of the world, and that racism is a slowly disappearing in the United States.

Does racism exist? Yes. But next to the racism of 60 years ago, it is a minor problem.

A lot of what the elites call American racism is less racism as minorities clashing with other minorities over jobs and opportunities. It is not racism to complain about quota and affirmative action if you are an ethnic Polish coalminer or a Vietnamese refugee, and your child lost a place in college because he or she was the wrong race. It is not racism if you are a Korean American grocer whose store is robbed by local black and Hispanic gangs and the police don’t take your complaints seriously. And it is not racism when Somali immigrants and Hispanic immigrants in Iowa meat packing plants are arguing over time off.

The dirty little fact is that, next to other countries, immigrants in America can become fully integrated citizens: a fact that is not true in most of the world, including in Europe.Strategy Page explains the geopolitical importance of a President Obama:

Obama’s election is not an exception, but part of a long trend. An Indian-American was recently elected governor of Louisiana, and in 1996, a Chinese-American was elected governor of Washington state. As much as other nations preach equality and opportunity, it’s the United States where it actually happens. Not just with politicians, but academics, business executives and military leaders.

My family’s experience  echoes this. Those of our family who worked in Saudi Arabia were kept separate, had no freedom of religion, and stayed only two years. Those who found jobs in the US became citizens. In the US, few consider them foreigners at all, since Filipinos are so welcome and usually speak English fluently.

Similarly, my adopted sons (Hispanic) faced minor discrimination but many programs that helped them assimilate, from language tutoring in public schools to church groups which welcomed them to opportunities to go to community college part time to get their degrees.

But the lack of racism has other implication. Again, StrategyPage explains that Africans born in Middle Eastern countries rarely can rise into the establishment, and that Muslims in Europe often find it difficult to get good jobs, or to advance in the job market, even if they were born in these countries.

In contrast, my relatives have easily found good paying jobs and were allowed to live in affluent suburbs. Ah, but what about blue collar jobs? Again, my sons working their way through college found they could advance even in their low level “entry” jobs in fast food places, or in the construction industry.

One of my sons did a year of “volunteer” work: his job involved teaching and supervising short term volunteers to fix houses. But no one, either the poor southerners (both white and black) having their houses fixed or the upper class white suburban college student volunteers, saw this as a problem…

The ability of Americans to work with those from other ethnic groups is found best in our military, where there are blacks and Hispanics and Asians and Muslims both as troops and as officers.

Most people are aware Secretary of State Colin Powell was once Army Chief of Staff, but there has been little publicity that other ethnic soldiers who hold high positions in the military: Army generals such as General Sanchez (Mexican ancestry) and General Abzaid (Lebanese ancestry) led troops, and it was General Taguba (a Manila born Filipino) who investigated the scandal at Abu Ghraib.

In contrast, in European military units, there are few “immigrant” officers.

From Strategy Page:

In Europe, Moslems were held in low esteem even before 911. Since then, fear of terrorists has translated into even more disdain for Moslems. This carries over into the military, where officers and NCOs often distrust their Moslem troops, or simply show disdain for them. Senior commanders recognize that they have a problem with Moslem troops, and it’s not always the fault of the Moslems.

There has been a lot written about hate attacks against Muslims after 9-11. This report of half a dozen incidents after the Oklahoma city bombing (which initially was blamed on Muslim terrorists) is typical. Yet such reports ignore the reaily: That there were no pogroms aginst Muslims following the Oklahoma city bombing, even in a state where everyone owns a gun, and where many people had friends or relatives either injured or working in the rescue.

The reason is that, despite the many ethnic clashes between various groups, there is a sense of widepread decency among Americans of all races religions and ethnic groups.

Similarly, the 1998 movie “The Seige” when it was released, was considered a “realistic” look at how America would respond to terrorism: The movie showed a government that arrested all Muslims after a terrorist attack.

Yet after a real attack on 9-11, I suspect that the more common attitude of Americans is that of one of my “redneck” patients, who said that her daughter dated a Muslim boy (whose parents immigrated to Tulsa years earlier) and if the government tried to round out Muslims, she told them she would hide them at her ranch.

Similarly, the fact that few American Muslims or Arabs have become terrorists may be because in America they are accepted more than they are feared.

So despite all the squabbling that makes headlines, the dirty little secret about racism in America is not that it exists, but that people try not to be racist.

American has a culture where racism is considered wrong, and the average person goes along with the idea that any person of any race, color, gender, or creed should be allowed to hold any job that they are qualified to do, and live in peace.

Thirty years ago, Governor Mario Cuomo declined to run for president, pointing out that the country wasn’t ready for a president named “Mario”…yet earlier this month, that same country was ready for a President named Barak…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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