Thursday, April 27, 2006

In favor of humanity

David Brooks' column today in the NYT is sure to incite a reaction. It is lengthy, so I have merely posted the url. Basically, he's saying Democrats in the last 1/3 of the 20th century caused themselves harm by segmenting their constituents into distinct "out-groups", as he calls them (blacks, glbt, hispanics, etc). Instead, Democrats would do better to embrace the common struggles of humanity, and unite the groups into "liberal American nationalism".

Let me tell a little story. My senior year in college, I took a class called "multi-ethnic relations". There were about 12 of us in the class, and we were very diverse ethnically and racially. On the first day of class, the professor asked us to define plurality vs the melting pot theory. I hate it when no one responds, so I raised my hand and defined them. Then, she asked me which was the better idea. gulp -an opinion, the first day of class, in front of people I don't know? The audacity!

Anyway, she asked so I answered. I stated that I thought it was important for people to be able to identify themselves in a way that made sense to them, but by grouping people thusly, it was in fact reinforcing differences and ignoring commonalities among all people, and that this could lead to fragmenting society, and could be carried too far.

As an example, I said, "now I know I have a big nose. What if I decided that all people with big noses deserved special treatment and a special identity? You see how this can be taken too far." I looked around at the class and got nothing but daggers in peoples' eyes. I was confused. It was just my opinion, after all.

For the next few weeks I was treated differently by some of the groups on campus. Finally, I was approached in the bookstore by one of my sorority sisters (yes, I was in a sorority, but it was different at my school than your typical sorority stereotype), who happened to be black. She came up to me and asked me why I told a class full of her friends that black people have big noses. WTF?!!! I then explained what happened. She harumphed and walked away and I don't think she believed me.

For the rest of the year, I was labelled a racist on campus. ME! I went to friggin Zimbabwe for half a year and stayed with an African family! It was pretty disheartening, really. And the class I was taking? Well, I found it interesting that folks only showed up to class when the discussion was about their particular minority experience. I learned a lot, in class, and in life. And I've kept my mouth shut about my opinion, until now.

I completely and totally agree that subdividing into special needs/interests is psychologically extremely important and unifying within that group. I also completely and totally agree that focusing on how people are different is damaging our society, as well as the Democratic party. We need a central theme and message, and we need to bring people together. Bushco are dividers - let's truly be uniters. Liberal American nationalism - has a nice ring to it... I can be part of that group ;)


 


Logo created by Barbi. Donkey clip art via MadLantern.com.