Monday, June 16, 2008

Do We Need Less Pluribus and More Unum?

Recently, I attended my assistant’s master’s-degree commencement ceremony at San Francisco State University.

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.


Anonymous said...

We live in a country that is hated by a significant number of its own citizens.

We have political correctness coloring every aspect of our lives.

We have a very vocal and hypersensitive minority that speaks up at every slight on one side and a powerful, self-serving political elite on the other, with the majority in the middle, shushed into silence.

As long as that majority keeps quiet, we will have less unum, not more.

Dave said...

Europe and the United States have a guilt complex. Europe imports a huge number of people from the Middle East and North Africa, in order to make up for its colonial past. The United States celebrates its minority peoples to make up for the slave era and, discrimination. Western political and academic elites are cultureless because they are openly ashamed of the culture and traditions of the indigenous whites. The outcome? So-called multicultural values. We are told by the multiculturalists that all values are equal. And because we no longer have core values, no values can be criticized. Indeed, we are told to celebrate multiculturalism and diversity, even though most of the indigenous peoples have little interest in knowing anything about the cultures of minority peoples. Multiculturalism is diversity and such a destructive policy has resulted in the tribalism you speak of. Insular, tribalist factions breeds anger and violence. Cars are burned in Paris, indigenous whites are targeted and taken to court in Holland, Sweden, Italy, clergy are beaten up in the United Kingdom, and the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) files lawsuits against US citizens for exercising free speech in their own land.

The West lacks one main ingredient needed for Unum; the ingredient that led to the successful integration of all pre-1960 immigrant groups: civilizational confidence. Only civilizational confidence can bring minority groups into mainstream society. Only civilizational confidence can bring about assimilation. We need a renewed sense of confidence in our cultural and political institutions and our traditions. We need to remind ourselves of the superiority of Western civilization and the great values and glorious heritage (the Enlightenment) that made it all possible.

We have to break free from the guilt that is choking us and turning our society into a regressive society. Civilizational confidence is the key to a progressive society and one that will demand the unum we so desperately need.

Marty Nemko said...

Someone queried me privately in response to this post. She asked, "What would an America look like that prioritized unum over pluribus. Here was my response.

It would be an America in which:

-- people's primary identity is based on their own accomplishments and failures, not that of the group.

-- people evaluate all other explanations fairly before blaming their lack of success on race, gender, etc.

-- people think about what's best for the world, not what's best for their identity group.

Hazumu Osaragi said...

“…and one [award] to a white male who had been transgendered and did his thesis on transgender counseling.”

Dear Marty Nemko;

Please clear up my confusion regarding this transgendered person. By refering to this person as ‘white male’ and using male pronouns, are you trying to say that this transgendered person was born with a penis?

Associated Press stylebook says to refer to a transgendered person as the gender that they are currently presenting as, irrespective of genitalia present at birth or operative state of the genitalia. It’s also respectful to the transgendered person to refer to them the way they request, and presenting as a particular gender is for all intents and purposes requesting to be referred to as that gender, even if you ‘know what they were born as.’

Perhaps the individual you were referring to is in fact a trans-man (female-to-male), and you used the correct referent. If so, please accept my apologies for taking you to task what I thought was insensitivity on your part.


Hazumu Osaragi (transwoman)

Marty Nemko said...

It was a female-to-male. It would, indeed be unfair for me to refer to a person who now is a man as a woman.

This is a good opportunity for me to point out that most people who are against reverse discrimination are NOT racist, sexist, or homophobic. We believe that the net effects of reverse discrimination are greater than the liabilities.

I think I speak for most such people in saying that we decry unfairness of any sort. And indeed, a transgendered person deserves to be treated on his or her merits, like everyone else.

By the way, I did a show on transgendered people in the workplace. You can hear it on my site:

mayiara said...

Marty, as an Asian American woman who grew up in Brazil until 13 and then in the States, I've always by the numbers been a minority (bc of the specific locations I grew up in). Personally, while others might have felt marginalised under the circumstances, I haven't. I grew up under those environments, and never expected to see other Asians. I assumed references made of white Europeans and those of that heritage applied equally to me. Most of the people I've admired during the first half of my life, happened to be white men (I'm only finding other examples in the 2nd half). Never occurred to me that gender or race might be a barrier. Naive, I guess.

So no, I don't think there is any particular reason for white males in the context you describe to necessarily feel marginalised, I think.


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