On Nov. 14, 2000, H.E.A.D.S., the black male group and Hillel, the Jewish community organization, met for the first time in unity as H2. We viewed the historical film, “From The Swastika to Jim Crow,” and participated in a discussion following. Through this, we found that there exist many more similarities between blacks and Jews than previously imagined. We have since met again and will continue to assemble for future engagements.
Only at Michigan.
I happen to pride myself on the fact that I chose a university accredited with such an ethnically diverse environment to complete my collegiate education. Sure some of the powers that be preferred for me to attend a historically black university, but I always had the impression that those universities did not represent the “real” world. On that note, I also refused to attend any small colleges, Catholic schools, or any other relatively non-diverse university whose student population I feel is not a substantial representation of the global population. I find all of that in the University and I commend our generation of young people for being among the first in the country to be able to cross-culturally coexist peacefully and harmoniously as we do (break out into song here).
Yet I wonder if it is only a peaceful coexistence and not much else. The truth regretfully remains that relations are not as solid as they can be, but my inquisitive nature forces me to ponder on any possible extent of ethnic unification. Will there ever exist the unbridled unity that so many civil rights activists fought and often died for? Or is it just a massive pipe dream on the same virtually unreachable plane as world peace? I wish to dissect the issue of interracial relations in the United States in an attempt to gain a greater understanding.
I don”t believe that there is one intelligent mind on earth that does not harbor prejudices for another group of people. So many don”t realize this and many refuse to accept it, but it is almost undeniable. The latency of prejudice in our country, however, is very beneficial, as they certainly don”t exist on unhealthy levels for many people. Where do our prejudices form? Sometimes they are gained through bad personal experiences with numerous people of the same ethnic group. Oftentimes, however, our prejudices are a result of our upbringing. If people are raised by or constantly in the presence of influential individuals who make attempts to teach them so-called “values” that are ethnically demeaning and antisocial, these ideas will become incorporated into their way of thinking at an early age.
The latter describes my beef with some parents and certain other elders with influence. I notice that far too many members of the older generation still possess the “old-school” mentality: That which refuses to let go of the social standard that existed many years ago. These are people who carry the belief that folks should only date within their “race,” and also have a natural contempt for some other ethnic group. I do understand that, with many people, such a negative attitude that may never reside can remain within people for a lifetime. Regardless, parents who claim to ingrain positive values into their children and at the same time breed ethnic contempt into them, are doing their children an ultimate injustice, contradicting their hopes to raise their children with a proper outlook of the world.
Cultural differences play the most vital role in the difficulty. As long as different ethnic groups with different lifestyles coexist on the same plot of soil, there are bound to be complications. The psychological idea of ethnocentrism the belief that one”s ethnic group or religion is superior to all others is the ultimate issue, as most of the world”s population carries this idea. The close-mindedness of humans allows us to believe that our way is the right way and the next man is wrong because he isn”t doing it my way. For example, when I was younger, I was “taught” by a close white person that the way I spoke was “ignorant,” and that it had nothing to do with my ethnicity or the cultural norms with which I was born and raised. The latter example is trivial, yet the same concept works on such a wider scale and it leads to often ill results. To spite someone automatically on sight of skin color is entirely absurd unfortunately it is an all too common ritual, even in our so called “civilized” society.
Another related problem is frequent misjudging of other cultures. Stereotypes are a distortion of cultural differences that people often get hung up on many of them are ludicrous nevertheless. I witness such ridiculousness every time a white person tells me that they are scared or nervous to go to my hometown of Detroit. Every time a young black person expresses a “natural” distrust of all white people. Or for every other ridiculous assumption about a group of people that has no true merit. Many of us do it jokingly, but it often becomes ingrained, leading to trouble.
I”m not saying that I have the answer … I don”t think anyone does. Alleviating the situation is a matter of the individual allowing his or herself to open up to new things and different people. Ignore what you may have been raised to think about different people, throw all of your inhibitions out of the window and step out of the comfort zone that is comprised of those that look only like you do. And to Hades with the stereotypes judge the character of the person, because in our society, not enough weight is put on the individual. Me, I don”t discriminate: I trust no one.
Dustin J. Seibert”s column runs every other Tuesday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org