Sunday, January 17, 2010

race: American

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
— Mark 9:47

Fifty years ago we were segregated by law. Today, we're segregated by our own choices. We strive for unity, yet we have not found a means to achieve it. We have not grasped that which is common among us. That bit of shared humanity that will allow us to unify.

That shared humanity will not be discovered in the Ivory Tower and delivered in a lecture to the masses. It will not proceed from the minutes of a corporate board meeting to the shelves of Walmart. Government agencies will not dispatch bureaucrats to implement it. And it will certainly not be delivered from Washington by a president promising unity. Racial harmony requires a commitment from all of us to a common principal.

That principal, has a name: American. American is the shared identity that can unify us. One facet of being American is respecting the differences among the races and cultures that have joined in this great melting pot: E pluribus unum. That will always be foundational to what it means to be American. At its core, American is the pigment of the color-blind society and the scale by which the content of our character is measured.

Each of us must choose to be American. That is what is common among us. That is what can unite us at this time. The American race is not defined by skin color or genetics, but by shared values like liberty and tolerance. The American race is here, but we are unaware of its arrival.

We have been trained to think of American as a culture and to look at our skin to determine our race. But a color-blind society demands that we ignore one another's skin color and, to the degree we are able, our own. Each of us does this when we indicate our race: American.

What I'm saying is that each of us should take this simple step: on the upcoming census and when answering a pollster tell them your race: American. Here's why. As more and more of us self-identify as American, our collective awareness of the American race will increase. First pollsters and later the census will reveal which cities and towns are trending either toward or away from American. This will lead to introspection and we will learn over the years what it is that helps to build and break unity. Today, we learn of racial strife in our neighborhoods when a crime has been committed. Perhaps tomorrow we can find reconciliation before a crime is even contemplated.

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