Race and Racial Identity: Is There Room For Everyone? (Part I)

“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.” – The Western Code

Nicki Minaj is currently allegedly feuding with Taylor Swift over the nominations for Best Music Video of the Year. According to Minaj, who was not nominated, “If your video celebrates women with slim bodies, you will be nominated for Video of the Year.” She continues, “When the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination.” In her subsequent tweets, Minaj presents her confusion over not being nominated for the award. She states in a reply to a follower, “I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.”

Whether she was throwing “shade” at Taylor or Beyoncé (for her thinner body)– who is also a woman of color nominated in the category– we can all say that her comments poke at underlying topics currently booming on social media and news outlets– race and racial identity. If you watch the news, surf your Facebook or Twitter timelines, or read articles online, race and racial identity are particularly hot topics right now. Are all races equal? Where do we go? Who is to blame? Who is responsible for fixing the problem? These are just some of the questions that people are attempting to answer.

Racial differences, social tensions, the causes, effects, likes, dislikes, and everything in between are the topics of conversation. From feuds about musical accolades, to debates about whether “All Lives Matter” versus “Black Lives Matter,” to religious controversy over the recent Supreme court decision on equal marriage rights to all same-sex couples, or down to the never ending daily personal, relational, career competitions around us, they all make me think about one question– Is there room for everyone? 

Our world history is undoubtedly filled with the forces of competition, domination, conquest for power, class wars, enslavement, imperialism, subjugation, racism, ethnocentrism, entitlement, and sexism. There seems to be a prevailing need to win, and in our society winning means ultimately being better than someone else. With this attitude apparently dominating our society, is it really a surprise that we tend to compare ourselves to other groups? Is it strange that each group ends up determining that their group needs to be on top in order to win? Who defines this standard for what is “better” anyway? When did one body type become better than another? Or one religion become better than another? Or one career more prestigious than the other? Or in the context of race and racial identity, when did the color of someone’s skin continue to make them inferior or superior? We as humans created this complicated society. We made the rules and I would argue that we also still obtain the power to change them.

Our society created the standards that we still willingly follow. And in that sense, we all might bear some of the blame for the continued issues in our society. Yes, there was a time when people were legally not allowed to be equal. Their differences were despised and buried beneath the voice and power of the more influential, the more armed, or the majority. But those events in our history– despite some of the causes they fought for still needing work today– give us information that might help us figure out a more peaceful and honest way to coexist in a overly complicated world.

Based on the lessons we have learned from the past, two conclusions stand out in my mind: (1) we need to learn to love each other more and embrace the commonalities among all humans, and (2) we need to accept the possibility that there is not only room for everyone, but that we all need each other in order to move society forward for the benefit of all humanity.

Throughout history, humans decided to pursue what they thought was best for survival and success. Unfortunately, that repeatedly translated into the exploitation of one group for another group’s personal gain, and co-existence eventually resulted in the domination of one group over the other. Because of that, we all carry the fear that on the journey toward true equality one group will ultimately try to overthrown the other. It is disheartening that even on the smallest scale, we continue to conclude that there is no room for someone else on our level, in our group, or in matters that directly affect our life and our success.

If we peel back all the layers, we will find this fear, although having historical basis, persists as a result of our own insecurities, miscommunications, hurts, hatred, and weaknesses. In the end, love multiples when we choose to use it. There is always more than enough room in our hearts to love someone new after we have been hurt in a previous relationship, right? So then that is proof that there is a lot of love in our heart, if only we allow ourselves to access it. If someone of a particular race, group, or class has slighted you, please don’t assume that there is no more love left inside of you to love other people of that same group.

I am by no means trying to assert that we embrace things that intentionally undermine basic human rights and liberties. I am saying that overall, we need more of an attitude of “your culture, identity, customs, and language are just as equal and cool as mine, and you being on the same level as me doesn’t take anyway from my awesomeness.” Even down to the less attractive issues in our individual groups (violence, poverty, class), if we look closely enough we will find that those issues are less race specific and more problems that plague groups, governments, and societies around the world.

You have something to offer me and I have something to offer you. What I have to offer this world is also just as important as what you have to offer this world. It is from the connections and encounters among ideas and cultures that great progress is made. So maybe just maybe, loving more, viewing each other as human beings, becoming more empathic, embracing all races and racial identities, and actively supporting and promoting equality for everyone are the important steps needed to continue breaking down the walls of hatred and prejudice lurking in us all.

Saying we are “colorblind” in regards to race and racial identity means that I don’t see your cultural differences and you don’t see mine. I don’t think God intended for us to be “blind.” Instead, I would propose that we need to adopt– what for lack of a better term I will call– color appreciation and color enrichment. Color appreciation is to absolutely notice the differences in others and to actively embrace them as both beautiful and equal. Color enrichment is to actively support and advocate for the freedom of every group and the opportunity to achieve success without the limitations of discrimination.

While, we might not be able to solve society’s problems overnight, I can say that most solutions are going to have to start with open arms by everyone. Together, we might have to place particular focus on one group for a certain time, but it is not to the detriment of another– “All lives matter” and “black lives matter.” As issues arise in any and all groups, everyone rooting for that group proves that we stand for unwavering true equality in our society.

Every race should have the opportunity to attain any position and live out any dream within our society. Historically, challenges to progress did not stop people from pushing for progress. We can debate about the correct strategies to bring about true equality all day and night, but I am convinced it starts with a few things: cultural appreciation, cultural enrichment, love, empathy, and open arms. The only way all these will ever happen is if we conclude that we all need every group to play an active and equal role in our society.

Although separate does not mean equal we must be careful to understand that “different” in terms of culture, race, and racial identity should still mean equal. To annihilate one group for the gain of another is wrong. On the other hand, to assume that one group needs to behave, act like, and become like another group in order to be “equal” is equally as wrong.

In my opinion, all lives matter, black lives matter, and [insert your group here] matters too; straight hair is just as beautiful as curly hair; big booties are just as cool as smaller booties; one artist can be just as awesome as another artist; one religion has the right to believe what they want, just like I desire to love God the way I want; your career is just as important as mine; and your talent is just as unique and cool as mine. At the end of the day, there is an element of preference involved, but your preferences should not cross lines of cultural insensitivity, discrimination, or condemnation. We may not all be recognized equally for our greatness (for many different reasons), but we shouldn’t tolerate any one group not being recognized simply because of their given race or racial identity.

I really want to know, is there room for everyone? What are your thoughts…

Read Part II: Success and Competition: Is There Room for Everyone? (Part II)

Read Part III: Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

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4 thoughts on “Race and Racial Identity: Is There Room For Everyone? (Part I)

  1. I just had a heated debate about this with coworkers. They posit that because black people are so disenfranchised by European society because of the transatlantic slave trade, that America should apologize and be paid reparations. Until that is done, the mental strain of racism on black people will continue, and no one understands other than another back person how that racism feels. I emphatically disagree because being Chinese in America, I have felt and experienced racism since I was in grade school. At least back people re still viewed as American.

    Racism is prejudice due to one’s race. We all have different degrees of racism in us. We are all racist in the slightest of ways even if do not want to be. We all have certain prejudices, good or bad, of different races. It doesnt matter if what your prejudice is feels like a superior versus an inferior status to you. No one wants to be stuck in a box. The different degrees of racism are thinking/believing them, saying them, and acting on them. I told my students that I will say a word and they will automatically come up with an imge. I wanted them to note the image and how they felt. The word was “Arab.” One of my students automatically cringed and then felt really apologetic. “I don’t want to be a racist,” she said, “but I get your point.” Until we all understand that it is within us all, and admit it, the conversation is at a stand still because it will always refer to my group versus your group.

    As you said, throughout history of every government, every culture, every race, there has been a struggle for power, and people lose when others gain. Playing the who-has-had-it-worse game gets us nowhere. Hatred due to misplaced pride gets us nowhere. Acknowledging the past (from the down and dirty to the inspirational), learning the valuable lessons from our histories to move forward, motivating ourselves to succeed, and finally giving back and motivating others to succeed despite our histories and weaknesses is what will move society forward. It starts with one (yourself). No school, water cooler conversation, kitchen table discussion, networking group, etc. can teach you the information and critically thinking to move on. Do your own due dilligence. It’s easy to find the down and dirty stories, but it’s better for you and your soul to dig up the inspirational ones. Get over the hate. Take on the challenge and place pride in wht you have earned, not just because some group at some point targeted your group, systematically or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up a very good point about the degree of racism that lies in all of us. We do carry certain prejudices, and the challenge is to not allow those prejudices to turn into negative actions and attitudes that divide us all. I am not sure the reparations will ever occur, and to be honest I am not positive that it will change anything much. Money and opportunity can change status but it cannot change someone’s attitude toward one group or another. As you said, the change really begins within ALL of us– the “ingroups” and the “outgroups” alike. We need to make internal changes and have more understanding of different groups represented around the world. Thank you for your thoughts!

      Please continuing sharing this article and encouraging conversation about race and racial identity.

      Like

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