“We know from the human genome that all people are 99.5 percent the same. Some people seem to spend 99 percent of their time worrying about the .5 percent that is different. That is a big mistake. We should focus on what we have in common. And focus on what is common. We make better decisions in diverse societies than in homogenous ones. America’s great advantage is that we are an idea, not a place. We are not an ethnicity or a uniform culture.”
Like him or not, that is a factual quote from former President Bill Clinton, and by factual I mean the facts contained within it are true. You wouldn’t believe that if you take the time to read what has been going on in our country over the last few weeks. We’ve taken a few steps back, and as is often the case, we’re leading the world in reverse momentum.
Test me on that. We were among the last major, developed countries to outlaw slavery – and I don’t mean by a year or two I mean by decades and only after a bloody war that claimed three quarters of a million lives. It took another century before laws were enacted to get some sort of equality when it came to voting rights. It took us until 1920 to decide women were worthy of the vote (137 years after the Constitution was ratified), and they are still fighting to be taken as equals in many societal metrics. We are behind, culturally on LGBTQ rights, holding on to antiquated Puritan values that we disavow in other aspects of our society. And we still have trouble with integration, women and minorities in particular – we’ve lagged other countries on that too whether it is in the military, politics, or in other organizations.
Is this some high-minded “America is smarter than everyone else” type of phenomenon? Are our calls that “it would upset unit cohesion” really valid? Supporters of racism and intolerance would say so, but I think it is a sign of an anachronistic society that spends way too much time trying to emphasize the space between us rather than recognizing how small that space really is. We claim (incorrectly) that we are a Christian nation of tolerance and goodwill, yet the very people we vote into office spend their time trying to emphasize how some people are more American than others, while the rest of them stay silent for fear of their own political careers. That in my book is cowardice, and we as ordinary citizens shouldn’t tolerate that anymore.
I don’t believe the average American is racist, but I believe we are all complicit in racism (and sexism, and general discrimination) if we don’t do enough to protect those who are not like ourselves – and we all have someone who is not like us. We live in a world of fear and ignorance that should not be acceptable in 2017. It shouldn’t have been acceptable in 1917.
I am a small blogger with a mind towards acceptance – not tolerance, but acceptance – of those who are different than me. Not only do I not care that you are different, I tend to embrace it because I think that diversity produces better outcomes for the world at large. Things are happening around us, and they are too often bad things. Polls show that most people don’t agree with them, but the voices tend to remain silent. That is our real problem with racism – our unwillingness to openly stand against something that is blatantly harmful, blatantly hurtful, and blatantly ignorant in favor of the safety of not rocking the boat.
Here’s to rocking the boat.