Our class discussion of Jacobsen this week demonstrates the irrationality of racial divides. The text described the nit picky definitions of whiteness in the wake of European immigration into the United States. “White” was redefined to exclude more groups than just colored people. When it was convenient, all of a sudden white meant English or of English descent. Sometimes that excluded certain groups including the Jews, Egyptians, Italians, Spanish, Irish. Whiteness is a nebula with a semipermeable membrane whose selectivity changes based on its environment and the political, social, and economic realities of a particular group at a particular time. It was and is a shield, a concept used to protect and to place blame for the state of things.
This insistence on differentiating oneself from others suggests a natural insistence on hierarchy. When certain groups feels threatened, they devalue the other group. When there is no justification for inferiority, it is fabricated. Confirmation bias seen in several texts including that of our “enlightened” founding father, Thomas Jefferson, shows that reason doesn’t necessarily play a large role in the justification of the creation of the “other.”
For a country that constantly reinforces and boast about loyalty to the nobility of our founding principles, the individualist and exclusionary actions of our government and our people speak louder than words. From the silence of the moderate white man that Thoreau criticized in On Civil Disobedience to Japanese internment, it is evident that this country is not, in fact an inclusive country. That value is not woven into our fabric.
Are unity and inclusion and acceptance natural? Perhaps not. Perhaps it is not instinctual or intuitive for humans. Luckily for the sake of peace and the development of civilization, it is most efficient to use all of the resources available. This is not only economically efficient but also intellectually. More minds contributing to a solution means a higher likelihood of making the right decision. It is probably from this rational understanding that our founding fathers derived this principle.
As we face what will be a trying time in American society, I hope that we can use our reason and not succumb to fear-driven indifference and hate toward refugees and fellow citizens in need.