Modeling diversity on Revere Beach

By James W. Dolan
Special to the Reporter

Fear of diversity is a major concern of many of President Trump’s supporters. I witnessed recently how worry over the inevitable evolving of the country’s majority/minority population is misplaced. Just in my lifetime, the composition of America has been transformed. As in previous generations, the changes will likely strengthen us despite assimilation anxiety.

Recently, I took the T to Revere Beach to see the Sand Sculpture festival. On a lovely day, the train was crowded with people from everywhere, all looking forward to a fun day at the beach. It was a crowd you are not likely to see on Cape Cod, an ethnic mosaic of variable shades, languages, outfits, and kids, all out for a good time. Thousands crowded the street and parked across from the beach where about 75 food trucks were lined up next to a carnival and stage.

Entertainment was lively, the food plentiful and varied, designed to appeal to every appetite. Across the street on the beach, sand sculptors from around the world were putting the finishing touches on their granular masterpieces. Their creations, like the America we grew up in, will change. The sand will again be absorbed into and enrich the beach. The appearance of the shore may change over time, yet it remains a beach. So too, if we are wise, this country will absorb its new members and the gifts they bring.

While they may look and sound different, they are like us in so many ways, part of the human family with the same hopes, ambitions, strengths, and fears that our ancestors brought as they warily stepped into a new land. Most were driven by circumstances to flee their homeland. Tragically, many others had no choice. They were forced to come and then sold into slavery.

In diversity, some may see and hear a cacophony, but if you look and listen closer, it’s more a symphony, a harmonious blend of sight and sound. We are all alike and all in it together. Over the last two centuries, the Yankees resented the Irish, the Irish the Italians, the Irish and Italians the Poles, and they all resented blacks and Jews. What did it get us? Wars, riots, anger, disruptions, and a lingering suspicion of newcomers.

Minority is a word that separates rather than unites. It means fewer in number but can be degrading, implying diminished status, education, and achievement. It underscores the belief that some are better than others; it emphasizes what separates us rather than our shared humanity. What I saw on Revere Beach the other day were families having fun in many languages, all easily translated into smiles. There were no foreigners, only people.

To deny admission to would-be immigrants is insulting but necessary. No nation can survive with open borders. But instead of simply excluding the desperate, our national security would be better served by addressing the problems that drive people to flee their homeland. Using part of our enormous military budget to stabilize those countries in Central America generating refugees would likely be more effective and certainly more humane.

There are many who would say a foreign policy based on love is nonsense. But one need only look at the fruits of the Marshall Plan for an example of how, after World War II, compassion for our allies and former enemies served to stabilize the devastated countries of Europe and Asia and made us more secure. Think of the world as a beach where everyone would like to go on a lovely summer day and together experience the joy of family. A small example of this dream could be seen recently in Revere.


Minority is less
Majority is more
One is diminished
The other enhanced

Minority is them
Majority is us
One the outsider
The other belongs

Minority is strange
Majority is familiar
One is foreign
The other native

Minority is danger
Majority is safety
One is threatening
The other comforting

Of only numbers once composed,
Meanings new we shall propose.
Not lesser now in all respects,
A smaller sum with no regrets.

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.