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The Great Divides

Recently I wrote an article about facing bigotry within my family. It was a hard article to write but it was important to share my experiences to help others to see the personal impact of generalizations made about others. Today, I want to explore the idea of artificial divisions a little more in depth.

Humans seem to have an innate need to categorize each other. We divide ourselves by skin color, sex, age, religion, culture, language, hair color and any number of other little differences we can find. Sometimes the divisions are seen as positives and sometimes they are portrayed as examples of superiority or inferiority. Viewing the differences as positive leads to embracing change and helping humanity move forward. It opens our minds to the possibility that our way of doing things might be improved by changing our perspective. Including others in the debate enriches the quality of the debate and brings a wealth of knowledge to the table.

In a more limited mindset comes the idea that diversity weakens a group by bringing in “outsiders” who don’t “belong” in the society. This mindset tries to rationalize the exclusion of others by lessening the value of the group being excluded. Stereotypes such as blondes being unintelligent or Asians being bad drivers paint an entire group in one light so as to lessen its worth overall. Those who perpetrate such actions and promote such ideas may be overcompensating for a lack of self-esteem or they may just be parroting the things they have heard from others over the course of their lives. The problem in their actions is that the actions not only hurt those being targeted for derision, they also weaken the society overall by creating class divisions based on errant assumptions.

America is one of the best examples of arbitrary divisions causing stratified classes. In our nation, Caucasians dominate the society. Pretty much all other ethnicities are lower on the social ladder. Since its inception, the United States has been a country dominated by European peoples and cultures. In the early days of America, British culture reigned supreme. Most of the leaders of the early colonies were backed by the British monarchy and they led from the perspective of their culture being the model for all society. The only ethnic diversity in the early colonies was between the white Europeans and the Native Americans. The early colonists referred to the Native Americans as “savages” and disregarded their culture as being backward and primitive. While they had no problem assimilating their more efficient hunting and farming techniques and later would learn what was to become the basis for modern warfare from them, they still viewed them as lesser and treated their trust of the settlers as something to be taken advantage of. In doing so, many aspects of a great and proud culture were lost to the world for all time. As holistic medicine is becoming more popular and traditional science begins to embrace the ideas of it, we are beginning to see some of what we may have lost in killing much of the culture that used the same herbs and roots centuries before Westerners even knew of their existence.

Later in American history came the advent of slavery and the wholesale subjugation of an entire ethnic group for centuries. Once again Caucasians created a lower class of human being by dividing people based on an arbitrary division. To this day we suffer as a society for that action. African Americans are still viewed by many as being lesser to other ethnicities despite innumerable contributions to the world and America. Without the work of George Washington Carver, American agriculture would likely have died a slow death and we would not have become the world leader in that area that we are today. Because of his discoveries regarding crop rotation and soil replenishment we have farms able to produce more crops using less fertilizers with less demineralization of our soils than would occur without the more scientific approach to farming. Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. have added to the richness of our nation and given the world more respect for the American principles of freedom and justice.

While these are some examples of the divisions we have placed on ourselves, there are countless others. So why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we feel the need to generalize superiority and inferiority based on what are in reality basically insignificant differences between us? It seems to me, for many it is a case of needing to feel significant. When one has not accomplished anything of note in their life, they want to feel like they have something that makes them better anyway. People seem to need to feel “special” and “important” when the truth is that most of us are not “special” or “important” in the grand scheme of things. Most of us are simply cogs in the machine of humanity and many of us are the insignificant cogs that merely spin and don’t really do much. That’s not to say that we can’t become more relevant. We can find ways to make society better or find some change to a process that makes life easier for others.

The thing is, we can’t make ourselves more relevant without effort. We can’t simply berate others to make ourselves more important. No matter how much you talk about someone else being less than you, it will not make you more. You are still the same person you were before you began to talk. Even if some stereotypes have some basis in fact, they are not true of all people that they are referring to and to use them as a basis for opinion of an entire group only serves to show that you are ignorant and don’t actually know about the entire group.

Probably the most insidious way in which we divide ourselves is through the use of epithets. People use them in every day conversation and with each use, the group being described is a little more solidified in our society as being lesser in the perceptions of others. Perhaps the most widely used and most harmful is the word “nigger” or “nigga”. This word in its various forms has been used for about four hundred years to describe people of African descent. This word connotes ignorance, stupidity, dangerousness, lack of refinement and a general idea of not belonging in “proper” society. The connotations that the word brings are by no means accurate to the whole body of people of African descent. I noted two prominent examples of Americans that completely defied the stereotypes that come with the word. So why do people use it? I would posit that people who have no sense of real self-worth largely drive its continued usage. These people use it to either denigrate others in an attempt to gain self-worth or to add identity to themselves when the color of their skin is all that they have to distinguish themselves from others.

Sadly the aforementioned epithet is by no means the only one used in our society. We have epithets for everything from women to homosexuals to people of every skin color known to man. We denigrate based on religion, age, education level, etc. with no regard to the overall accuracy of our generalizations. The thing that should be stressed is that no matter how many ways we find to insult others, it does not make us any better. We cannot improve our own worth by lessening others.

I have heard some argue that we will never get past the use of such words as an excuse to continue using them. To those people I say that they are lying to themselves. The words of hate can be stifled and put into the garbage cans they belong in if we stop just accepting that they are used. If you hear people use the words, call them on it and make a commitment to yourself to not use the words. There are plenty of non-hateful descriptive words to use. If you noticed during this piece I didn’t talk about different races because we are only one race. We are the human race. There is no need to damage others in order to talk about them. People like Don Imus should be made irrelevant in our daily lives unless they stop using the language of division. We do have a choice and to say otherwise is to say that you have no control over your own actions. Unless you are mentally disabled, that is a lie that you should neither tell nor believe.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer - | E-mail Comments on this article. | Visit Troy's blog at http://reform-america.blogspot.com | Visit Troy's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/reform_america



Get Involved

Do you sit and yell at the TV when politicians come on? Do you shake your head sadly whenever you see a homeless veteran? Is that all you tend to do?

It's time to put up or shut up America. We all love to talk about how we could do things better or how we would do it if we were in charge. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. If you can think of it, you can write it down. If you can write it down, you can type it. If you can type it, you can e-mail it and if you can e-mail it, you can send it here.

We at Reform America are committed to giving voice to anyone who wants to put their ideas out there to make our nation a better place. As the readership grows, we are able to take those views to a wider and wider audience. Grassroots campaigns begin with voices speaking out. You have opinions. Voice them. We aren't about conservative or liberal. We aren't about pro-this or anti-that. We're about Americans and the First Amendment. Reform America is about politics by, for and of the people. You are the people. You only need to speak up. America is listening. Send your article to: stories@reform-america.net



Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to stories@reform-america.net

 

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