Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Argument Against a Post-Racial Society


The Argument Against a Post-Racial Society

I recently read a letter to an editor suggesting that race should stop being used as a descriptive element in news stories. While I fully understand the writer's sentiment, isn't the fact that President Obama the first Black leader of the free world news? And beyond that, I don't think our goal in this country should be to do away with difference, but rather, to embrace and promote it.

The primary characteristic that makes the United States different from virtually every other country in the world is that we are a quilt as oppose to a blanket, and that very patchwork of varying cultures is what makes us more, rather than less. That isn't to say that we're the only country that's made up of different cultures, but rather, we are the only country that is defined by difference. Thus, one of the greatest gifts that America can contribute to the world is the understanding that "difference" is a good thing rather than the reverse.

It is a given that all cultural groups have identical intellectual potential, but to confuse that with thinking that different cultures don't have differing culturally developed skills to bring to the table is a fallacy. To say that Blacks tend to have "soul" is a fact. But that isn't the same thing as saying that soul is innate to Black people and not others. The reason that Black people tend to have soul, and a highly developed sense of creativity, is because that's an area that has been culturally rewarded in the Black community due to the limitations that's been placed on Black people in other endeavors.

But as Barack Obama is clearly demonstrating, creativity is an associative quality, and it's not limited only to a twelve bar blues. The very same creative that goes into the making of a Ray Charles, Areatha Franklin, or John Coltrane, can easily be transferred to finding a cure for cancer, or indeed, leading the free world--and the very same unique cultural assets are true of every culture.

But this nation, and this world, is being divided by a minority of people who, due to their own personal insecurities, feel the need to validate themselves–not based on their level of individual development, but by virtue of the fact that they are part of a group that has distinguished itself.
In short, these people take the position that, I may seem to be eminently mediocre, but proof of my personal value is that I'm wearing the same color shirt as Thomas Jefferson, or Malcolm X, or Moses. The stupidity of such an argument should be as transparent as the claim that a golden cocker is superior to a black cocker spaniel, but the human need to validate one's self has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on our common sense.

But it's only when we consider the true insignificance of the differences in man that the true silliness of this mindset comes into focus. Consider the fact that, in just the vastness of our solar system alone, the entire planet Earth constitutes nothing more than a dust particle from a grain of sand, and with respect to our galaxy, our solar system is but another particle of dust. Then when you go on to consider the fact that in just our galaxy alone there are a million billion times the number of such solar systems than there are grains of sand on every beach on the planet Earth, it is only then that the relative insignificance of the differences in man really begin to take focus.

But it goes even farther than that. If you lined up all of the "grains of sand" in our galaxy side by side so that they're almost touching, it would take us four years and four months, traveling at 136,000 miles per sec, just to get to the next closest grain of sand–and even with those vast distances within our own galaxy, our galaxy is but yet another particle of dust from a grain of sand in our universe (which scientists suspect is only one of many, many other universes).
Thus man's need to hate and kill one another based on who's superior and who God likes most, suggests much more about his unmitigated arrogance and limited intellect than his superiority. If it weren't for man's arrogance, he would clearly recognize that it is mathematically impossible that we're the only beings in this universe. The universe, in fact, our galaxy, has to be literally, teaming over with intelligent life.

The only things that keeps us separate from other beings who are REALLY different, is that the vast distances in time and space serve as a barrier. But our oceans here on Earth also once served as a barrier, but eventually those barriers were conquered, just as the barriers of time and space will eventually be conquered.

So man needs to wake up, grow up, and stop wasting his time arguing over whose navel is the prettiest. We need to start using our limited intellect in contemplation of the big picture, because eventually someone's going to show up at our front door and show us what being different really means–and we can only hope that they're not the cosmic equivalent of Terminix.

But in the meantime, we could make life here on Earth a lot more pleasant by simply recognizing that just as President Obama is demonstrating that the Black experience has contributed to unique qualities in Black people that can benefit the world, the very same thing is true of Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Native Americans, and every other cultural group.

So why would we want to downplay the beauty and unique qualities of cultural differences? God painted the beauty of difference into his creation, so the contrast of difference is clearly his will. He painted males different from females, the planet Mars much differently than the planet Earth, and he painted the bright and expansive sky with a much different hue from the mysterious fathoms of the sea. So man’s attempt to second-guess God, and interpret his masterpiece in a way that meets man’s liking over God’s, not only represents the height of human arrogance, but the very depths of human ignorance, and stupidity.

Eric L. Wattree


A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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