The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update


March 18, 2014

Primus Mootry: The color conundrum: race, ethnicity and diversity


Yet, according to 2010 and prior U.S. Census records, 97 percent report that they are simply "white." On the other hand, America's citizens of color are identified either as hyphenated minorities or by some other name that identifies their ethnicity, e.g., Hispanic. Again, according to that Sociology Lens publication mentioned earlier, "white Americans have developed an ethno-racial identity that acts as a constant lifeline but remains hidden from their [and everyone else's!] view."

The publication also says "by not having to live behind a 'veil' of differentness ..., whites do not understand how the consequences of this identity benefit them and harm others. ... In fact, the conflict over unequal resource distribution contributes to constant antagonism between whites and non-whites in the United States." As I said, it's about economics — money.

Is that confusing enough for you? My own interpretation is that it means that there are many hidden structural barriers to so-called minority access to ownership, control, and wealth (power). These thick barriers are so confusing and insidious that even the most well-meaning white folk innocently misinterpret their existence. Meanwhile, the confusion keeps the barriers in place, and makes meaningful conversation and understanding of the issues next to impossible.

This brings me to the issue of diversity. Far too often, folk on all sides have interpreted "diversity" as code for "tolerance." Well, if I'm a human being, I don't need to be "tolerated." I tolerate it if my dogs have an accident on the carpet, but not too long. Cultural pluralism? Don't we already have that? Integration? I think we have that, too. Are we now a post-racial society? What about the "race card?" And on and on.

At the end of the day, yes, it is about ownership, control, and a chance at a decent living, including the correction of "racial" imbalances in all workforce areas. But I am reminded of one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous statements ... something about judging people, not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. In the confusion, I think what many miss about this idea is that it applies to every American, male or female, and to every ethnic group.

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