Boston Shouldn’t Threaten Our Notion of Diversity

As soon as she was identified as a victim of the Boston bombings, Lingzi Lu was remembered at Boston University. Her friends placed flowers at the school’s Marsh Plaza in honor of the statisitics grad student from China.

Flowers, a symbol of both life and mourning, it turns out also symbolize another important value we must not forget in the wake of the Boston tragedy.

Start by holding up a penny. If you don’t remember what those looked like, it’s the only dark coin in the bunch. On the back of it, you’ll find three words sandwiched under the heading “United States of America,” and on top of that building known as the Lincoln Memorial.

It’s a lot of information on a coin that is too often taken for granted.

The three words are in Latin and pack a punch: E Pluribus Unum.

English translation, “Out of many, one.”

It is the basis of our American pluralistic system and the strength upon which we build this diverse nation.

But the motto was actually taken from a British publication in 1770 that used to put all its issues in one big number at the end of the year. And it was symbolized by a hand holding a bunch of flowers tightly.

A bouquet of flowers not unlike the ones Lu’s friends held and laid at the memorial at BU.

That’s what we are in America, a bouquet of flowers.

Not a melting pot.

And certainly not some pressure cooker bomb.

In the aftermath, the media has slowed down its rush to judgment.

The “dark skinned” suspects were actually White.

There was stern reaction from xenophobes. With the immigration proposal concurrently in the news, tough-minded conservatives wanted to consider tighter security and background checks to all immigrants.

Never mind that the suspects were both legal immigrants, one of them a naturalized citizen.

When the surviving bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured, President Obama reminded us all to not lose sight of justice and what was important.

“One of the things that makes America the greatest nation on earth, but also, one of the things that makes Boston a such a great city, is that we welcome people from all around the world,” Obama said. “People of every faith, every ethnicity, from every corner of the globe. So as we continue to learn more about why and how this tragedy happened, let’s make sure that we sustain that spirit.”

If we remember that, we’ll come away from the tragedy, not questioning diversity, but revering it, and working hard to make our commitment to it stronger.

And as we remember the principles of freedom and democracy and all that holds us together as a nation, we both celebrate and mourn by holding tight a bouquet of flowers.

Veteran award-winning journalist Emil Guillermo writes on diversity issues for the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.aaldef.org/blog) and at www.amok.com