|Diversity - In total darkness, we are all the same... | Gary Rush, IAF CPF|
I am an opponent of racism and a supporter of diversity. I believe that the government and others who are behind equal opportunity and diversity have missed the boat – so much so that I believe that they are unwittingly encouraging racism and harming diversity. It’s because of the human nature to label, generalize, and be tribal.
Let’s face it humans are tribal – we have tribes within tribes. In the beginning we were tribes. Later our tribes became nations. Within nations, we have smaller tribes based on gender, religion, skin color, age, ethnicity, and who knows what else all the way down to family. Don’t get me wrong. I do feel that some tribal is good – family for example. But we have taken it to a level based on many factors that have prevented us from finding global harmony.
The Problem with Labels
As humans, we need to belong. Apparently belonging to the human race is too vast so we find smaller groups to become part of. We pick some of the most obvious characteristics to define “those” smaller groups. This is where racism comes in. We categorize and label people to generalize a group that we either want to be a part of or want to avoid. These groupings and labeling are what hurt us. I’m going to pick apart the labels that I know about. I will offend some people and hopefully I will enlighten others. My contention that government, social media, and diversity trainers are encouraging racism is because they are amongst the worst when it comes to labeling. Don’t get me wrong, many of the people are well intentioned. It’s with their methods I disagree.
“In total darkness we are all the same, only our knowledge separates us. Don’t let your eyes deceive you.” – Janet Jackson, The Rhythm Nation CD.
Let’s start at the top – gender. This is the second most accurate label used (the only 99% accurate label is “living” or “dead”). Male and Female labels aren’t necessarily bad but generalizing people by them is wrong. Books have been written about generalized differences between men and women. They are interesting to read if you don’t take them seriously. I know that in my family, the men most closely match the characteristics of a “female” and the women most closely match the characteristics of a “male” (in terms of interests, TV remote, and even domestic chores). In society we place a lot of emphasis on labeling men and women, yet get confused when someone has a “sex” change. I put that in quotes because you cannot change sex – it’s cosmetic – a male will still be missing a rib and a female will always have that extra rib. So the “male” and “female” labels are interesting from a gender point of view. We should never generalize beyond that.
We are so driven to categorize that we even create groups within groups. Within “men” and “women” we also have to define with whom we partner. Unfortunately, we only care about two versions – homosexual and heterosexual. We don’t care about asexual, bi-sexual, tri-sexual, or any other variant. Transsexuals get labeled, but there are few and often get labeled “homosexual”. Because we secretly don’t like labels – but use them as often as possible – we try to find politically correct labels. Saying that a man or woman is “homosexual” doesn’t seem as nice as saying that they are “Gay” or “Lesbian”. The problem is that “Gay” is really a euphemism for the derogatory “Fairy” and “Lesbian” refers to an island in the Aegean Sea. Gay means happy – or it used to. Why can’t we just use “man”, “woman”, or “human”? Why does one aspect of a person’s life cause them to be labeled as something different?
The next label is supported by the government – race. The U.S. Census Bureau defines racial classifications for the census as, “The categories represent a social-political construct designed for collecting data on the race and ethnicity of broad population groups in this country, and are not anthropologically or scientifically based. Furthermore, the race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.” In other words, these are completely artificial groupings for data collection. In the 2000 census, an individual was allowed to belong to up to six different “races”. These labels encourage racism. They are also confusing – especially since they change with every census. The labels create artificial “minorities”. They create them because of how the census classifies people. People placed into a “minority” group can be made to feel inferior while people in a “majority” group can be made to feel superior – a subtle way to covertly perpetuate racism. I could be considered a “minority” if the census wanted to know how many “German-Swedish-Norwegian-Americans born in Indiana” there were. Why do we classify Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Pakistani, etc., as “Asian Americans” when they are very different in language, culture, traditions, and many other ways? Why are “Hispanics” separate and not “Germanics”? The USA and other countries are home to many immigrants. Take the countries of South America for example. Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile have many immigrants from Germany and Italy, yet if their offspring moved to the USA, they would be classified as “Latino”. My great grandparents emigrated to the USA from Sweden. My grandfather was born in America. None of them were classified as “Swedes” or “Scandinavians”. They were just Americans. The same is true of other immigrant groups except for those whose parents spoke Spanish. Why have those of Spanish speaking ancestry been singled out creating an artificial “minority”? Why can’t they simply be called “Americans”? Why do we even define “minorities”? A “minority” in one country is a “majority” in another, so “minority” is artificial. I always thought we were part of the same race – the “human race”.
Inaccuracy of Labels
Not only are racial labels offensive, but also they are highly inaccurate. The first attempt was color. “Black” and “White” are two common labels yet I have never met a black or a white person. Our skin has over 100 different shades of color. We pick some miniscule color and use that to label an entire group of people. If you look at the people labeled as “black” or “white” and look within each group, you will find more differences within the group than between the groups (“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”). The world is a melting pot – a mix of people who have spawned children over the generations who are mixed – some to the point where they fit many labels. Skin color is just one characteristic and our skin color covers a huge spectrum of color. I get offended when people talk about “people of color”. WE ALL HAVE COLOR!
Colors have fallen somewhat out of favor. Now we use national origin or ethnic background as basis for labels. We use labels such as “African American”, “Hispanic/Latino”, “Native American”, and “Caucasian”. These are just as bad as color. For instance – Africa is a huge continent but only people whose ancestors come from “any black racial group” (according to census definition) are considered “African-American”. What about the other Africans? What about Americans whose ancestors came from Egypt, Morocco, Libya, or South Africa (the census considers them “Caucasian” or “White”)? According to anthropologists, we all came from Africa – just at different times. Are “Native Americans” only native if their ancestors came across the Bering Straight thousands of years ago or can we be native if we were born in America? What is the time limit? My ancestors migrated out of Africa thousands of years ago and spent quite a while in Northern Europe before migrating to America. Am I African American, Euro American, or just American (maybe “Native” since I was born in America)? I tease my wife for being labeled “Hispanic” – a popular label. It is unfortunately quite harmful because it is a generalization (“You see one you see them all.”). Are all “Hispanics” alike? No! Puerto Ricans are as similar to Mexicans as they are to Swedes. Just because they may both have descended from Spanish ancestry doesn’t make them the same. Labeling is harmful because other people think that those within a specific group are all the same and miss the interesting differences – they all may speak similar languages yet follow different traditions, eat different foods, listen to different music, and have different values. It gets even more complicated when you look at the confusion over “Hispanic” versus “Latino” (“Hispanic” is defined as of Spanish/Portuguese descent whereas “Latino” is defined as of Latin American descent – but only from countries where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken). The words are used interchangeably by some and cause debate amongst others. You will find that even within the labeled groups, dissent is brewing. In Puerto Rico, “Latino” is considered someone of Spanish speaking descent other than Puerto Rican. Someone of Puerto Rican descent, born in New York, is considered a “Nuyorican”. “Boricua” is used to describe someone of Puerto Rican descent born in Puerto Rico. The labeling has become so convoluted and artificial that it’s confusing and inconsistent. It encourages generalizing and that is offensive.
Generalizations and Judging
Another label for grouping humans – religion. Today, labeling Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and who knows what else is all the rage. It plays into our “war on terrorism”. What we often forget is that religious labels have been used to murder more people than any other label in the history of humanity. Even Hitler and Stalin don’t hold a candle to the number of people murdered in the name of the “Almighty”. We create these categories to define groups that exclude rather than include. We exclude those who don’t fit our label. With religion, we take it a step further because we “know” that if you aren’t part of our group, you won’t be saved, you are a heathen, or you will be damned for eternity. There are even groups who will “rescue” a family member who joined a different “cult” just as missionaries have done for centuries (cult and religion are synonyms – we simply tend to use religion when it’s widely accepted and cult when it’s not). We are so obsessed with labeling that if a family member joins a different group, we feel the need to bring them back into our fold. Our groups are more about exclusion than inclusion. That’s because we like to judge other groups. We would never belong to a “bad” group. Our group is “good”. Whether our group is a religion or a nation, we not only exclude most of the world but also judge them further emphasizing and justifying the exclusion.
Back to Diversity
This brings me back to diversity. When we label, we create artificial groups. “Those” artificial groups come with generalized characteristics. That is the problem. Humans like to generalize (like I just did to make a point). Unfortunately, when we generalize, we lose out on the really interesting aspects of people. When we think that “they” are alike, we lose our humanity. None of us are alike. Unfortunately, we select some obvious characteristic to classify with – religion, skin color, ethnic background, sexual preference, or even age. What about characteristics such as our educational background, our economic status, our career choices, body size and shape, eye color, hair color, the number of children we have, our hobbies, our values, whether we come from a single parent home or a dual parent home, or any of the hundreds of other characteristics that describe us? The government has us label people and then pushes companies, local governments, and higher education schools to include people from every label. Companies, governments, and schools may be pushed to “fill quotas” instead of looking for the most qualified individual. Instead of looking for superficial similarities, we should be looking at the individual. While it is okay to include people who have some similarities to us, we also need to include people with differences so that we have a richer and broader base of experience, ideas, awareness, and beliefs. The similarities make life comfortable. The differences make life richer. When we stop labeling, racism will disappear. When we stop labeling, diversity will come naturally. When we stop labeling, nations will come together, embracing our similarities and differences, and we will have no excuse for terrorism, hatred, or divisiveness.
To teach diversity, we must first teach that the only meaningful label is “human”; all others are useless and harmful. We need to embrace the fact that each of us brings something different. When we look for people who are “just like us”, we loose out on the rest of the world. From now on, when you fill out the census form, list yourself as “human” – maybe then the government will get a clue and the world will live in global harmony.
The following is feedback, I received from my son, Al, after reading the article. We are proud of him.
Interesting article, it covers much of what's overlooked these days - so I like the point it's trying to convey...one thing though, at the end part ~ instead of human, why not life-form? After all, what happens when the day comes when we are visited by intergalactic neighbors? Then human would just be another label in the cosmic plan; but life-form is multiversal.. ;} Who ever heard of a dead-form, but then ~ anything is possible, I suppose......something to think about anyway, but the other points made much sense, & if people are offended by that, they need to have their heads examined, for it's long overdue that something be said & done regarding this issue..
Hispanic. - do not like that word
Native American.. - I'd be offended if someone called me that..
Jew.. - it's Judaism, a spiritual faith by the written law of Moses ~ not a race..
White.. - to this day, i have yet to see one..
Black.. - the darkest I've seen is blueberry, but that's about it..
Many tend to forget, white & black are colors too! Consider adding that words white & black do nothing more than create social-segregation & self-degradation, even if either "group" claims otherwise ~ they would be in denial at that point.....
PS - Here's a thought ~ in a group, we have the following: japanese, german, french, russian, egyptian, american, irish, white, swede, spanish......now, which one seems really out of place?”