We entered the auditorium to Jamaican percussion. Then, the African-American emcee introduced the retiring chair, a man who said that his vision for the counseling department is to create a program in counseling the incarcerated, disproportionately minority. He introduced the keynote speaker, an African-American woman who spoke of the need to continue fighting for the underrepresented while an audience member waved a large Latino-Power flag. Next, a Latina professor praised an African-American student who had died. Then that professor handed out four student awards: three to Latinos and one to a white male who had been transgendered and did his thesis on transgender counseling. Finally, the graduates walked across the stage. Some added African-American or Latino shawls to their cap and gown. One pasted a Mexican flag on top of her mortarboard.
I wondered how the straight white male graduates must have felt. I’d imagine that many of them felt okay about it. After all, their education likely has included much rhetoric explaining why one should celebrate all forms of diversity except that of the straight white male. But I wondered how many, in their heart of hearts, felt sadness or anger at being marginalized.
I wondered how the of-color graduates felt about the ceremony?
I wondered how the audience of friends and family felt?
I wondered whether the ceremony and awards would, net, increase feelings of cross-group amity or enmity?
In light of all the wars and other enmity, worldwide, throughout the ages, that have been caused by various forms of tribalism, I left the auditorium wondering whether society wouldn’t be better off if we focused less on pluribus and more on unum.