I have always denied that the world is round.
Before you wonder how I ended up in college, allow me to elaborate by regarding spherical circularity as multidimensional instead. Different facets converge to form a unifying element. In this case, we can take that as globalization; in other words, the imperialist Americanizing of the earth. In response to a dominating idea that this country needs to be uniformly assimilated, I propose an alternative view of unity. The problems in this country in endeavoring for “equality” are rooted much more deeply than we think, while problematic societal issues remain unaddressed.
By far, the most enlightening course I’ve taken at UCSB is Black Studies 4: Critical Introduction to Race and Racism. Within me and around me, I witnessed an immense transformation in opinions due to texts we had never been exposed to. But not all the facts presented to us by the eloquent Professor Gaye Theresa Johnson were accepted willingly.
After 20 years of constant bombardment of pro-American “ideals” like democracy and nationalism in our school systems, some individuals reject any other side of the story. That is the problem. History textbooks and messages from the media seduce many Americans into renouncing any other way but the American way. Diversity in thought and demographic composition is then seen as a problem.
“But this country was built by immigrants,” one may refute. “You can’t say we’re anti-immigrant.” According to professor and activist Laura Pulido, anti-immigration has become largely anti-Latino. When, aside from affordable drug trafficking, has the American government proposed sealing the Canadian border? Thus, the immigration issue becomes a racial issue. By silently consenting to this government’s double standards, we all become engaged in a racist battle, competing for the spoils of victory, which may include jobs and educational opportunities. By racist, I don’t mean individual prejudices, but, as UCSB Professor George Lipsitz put it, structural and institutionalized racism.
“But capitalism works! It’s ‘merican. In the words of Michael Douglas, greed is power.” Greed certainly is power. It runs the country, doesn’t it? This is contradictory when preaching “cultural” unity because capitalism is about the extracted individual clawing their way to the top by any means necessary. The larger picture and everyone else in it no longer matters.
“But the Constitution was written by the people and for the people!” Well, who wrote the document? Who was actually considered a “person” back then? A fraction of the constitutive nation: white, heterosexual land-owning males. Inherent and unequal flaws are so quickly overlooked by history books. And who currently writes our grade-school textbooks? Prescribed learning starts at a young age and is only reinforced by the unquestioned mainstream. By advertising assimilation, we fuel the continuous colorblind ideology that keeps communities of color at a systematic disadvantage. According to Kim Crenshaw, we are not all on a level playing field. Some groups have always had an advantage over others. Some start ahead. Adopting and applying a “colorblind” view breeds even worse conditions for all minority groups because systematic problems remain unacknowledged. They are further disenfranchised by the system that was built to exclude them in the first place.
As for me, I’ve always adopted Hunter S. Thompson’s depiction of the purported American Dream as a delusion: a historically watered-down hallucinogen meant to keep true intellectual freedom at bay. It may have started out unadulterated, but it has undeniably become distorted. With my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds, I propose looking beyond what you are told, because very often there will be a much clearer view upon reflection. Openly embrace active anti-racist politics, not just assimilation theories. There is beauty in diversity and collectively we can become a unified society through respect of different groups. We need to make ourselves a little uncomfortable to allow equality for oppressed voices. There is always a world outside our own and we must become aware of it. In the words of my hero, Malcolm X, “Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner. You must be eating some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.”