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Ancestral pride is lost in the fear of racism

This is the time of year where the integration of freshmen into the various cliques and social groups on campus will occur at frenetic pace. For upperclassmen active on campus, this is crunch time to find new recruits for your team or registered student organization (RSO) before schedules become locked up with other commitments.

For freshmen, it may be difficult at first to become accepted as an insider into these groups. But I urge them to take the first step. While it may be the right thing to do to for the upperclassmen to welcome them while they are still strangers, generally, it will devolve upon them to make connections.

We have all been integrated into particular groups throughout out lives. We begin to accept these groups as part of our individual identity. These groups can be based on a shared talent, such as being a member of the varsity baseball or softball team, or on a shared interest, such as computer gaming, or on a shared philosophy, such as support for the Democratic Party or for revolutionary socialism. Joining these groups has the potential to become a part of our very nature.

There is a large section of our identity that is selected on our behalf, without any individual merit whatsoever. These can often be the most divisive and induce the most social strife as compared with all other forms of identification. They are, of course, identity based on race, ethnicity and nationality.

Racial, ethnic and national identity can often be so explosive that many Western countries have laws declaring that we cannot consider these factors in any official capacity when judging among different people. However, these factors are a part of human experience. People will immediately make judgments based on the way a person looks, the way he talks or the manner in which he carries himself.

The question posed is whether there is value and uniqueness in racial, ethnic and national identity. Can we ascribe any form of merit in an identity that a man inherits from his parents? Is it foolish to be proud of one’s ethnic identity? Is it a form of racism to be proud of an ethnic identity?

For myself, having grown up in America with a mix of inherited ethnic ancestry, and where we are taught in public school that there is no merit to inherited characteristics, my longstanding answer to this question was that there is no merit whatever to these characteristics. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he dreamt that his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

However, this dividing line is often made along cosmopolitan and provincial lines, which is really the basis of the so-called red state, blue state divide. As we move out into the American countryside, we will begin to see more assertion of these forms of identity. People are proud of their heritage. If there is not any individual merit to one’s ethnic identity, there certainly is a form of collective merit.

In addition, even the briefest of tours through any other part of the world will reveal plainly that there is still in existence identity based on ethnicity and nationality. We even expect when we visit a foreign country to see people who look a certain way. However, it is not just the genetic profile but the customs and mannerisms of the various peoples of the world that are all quite unique.

The question prompted is whether or not there is value in preserving these unique traits and qualities. If there is value in their preservation, where does it cross over the line into racism? Does the value extend equally to both white and non-white ethnic groups? If students of English, Irish or German ancestry were to assert their unique ethnic identity, would others make the accusation of racism?

There are many implications to this idea. If there is a unique element to the genetic identity of a person of Irish descent, for example, then does this suggest that we should not be as open to intermarriage and assimilation among various ethnic groups? It would appear that suggesting that intermarriage is undesirable has racist undertones.

Perhaps there are positive attributes to such a position with all things considered, as from experience it can be shown that ethnic, linguistic and religious homogeneity tend towards social stability. We see the lack of this “sameness” as the basis of many conflicts throughout the world and underlying social tensions within the United States.

For a long time in America, we have shunned all assertions of pride and identification based on inherited characteristics, fearing that these things tend towards racism. But perhaps this has been a mistake on our part. It would seem that human beings naturally gravitate towards these attributes as a form of belonging. Perhaps a healthy reassertion of ethnic and religious identity would be beneficial towards solidifying the social, familial and moral framework that has decayed in modern times throughout America and all of Western civilization.

Eric Magazu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at emagazu@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Ancestral pride is lost in the fear of racism”
  1. muad'dib says:

    Well sure, ethnic identification is OK as long as you maintain your civic identification to the place you actually live.

    And Eric, what the hell are you ethnically anyway? You could pass for any variation on “mixed brown and white ethnicities” you wanted by appearance.

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