Focus on assimilation best answer to racism

posted in: Opinion | 0

There are many ideas about how we should eliminate racism in this country and one consistent, institutionally supported idea goes something like: we should just emphasize how similar everyone is that way racism will stop.

On face, this idea is deceptively attractive After all, if we eliminate differences between races won’t racism vanish as well? Well unless it eliminates assholes, then I’d say probably not. Of course, this completely ignores the fact that most racism comes from assimilation and ignorance. Assimilation pressures minorities to act “white,” erasing their cultural identity in the name of cohesion.

It’s this form of racism that creates urban revitalization projects that transform vibrant, culturally diverse landscapes like Spanish Harlem into Starbucksified, allegedly color-blind spaces for newly mobile whites to colonize. The result for those who don’t fit the color palette is a loss of community, as housing prices fracture the cultural fabric in the name of development and assimilation.

This is why the argument advanced by Justice of the Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, and other people I’ve met that says we should teach homogenization is so dangerous. When we see the solution to racism in sameness, we buy into the processes of assimilation and gentrification that separate minorities  from their culture.

I grew up learning in school that all people are the same, so when I turned my back on my native Hawaiian culture it just felt natural, as if this was the only way to truly reach equality. I, like many other indigenous young people, was taught to hide my culture because talking about it was “playing the race card” or “promoting racism by emphasizing difference.”

The myth that sameness is the solution to racism is insidious. It coyly avoids the conversation about the actual problem, foisting the blame on those who are being forced to assimilate.

Real change doesn’t come from emphasizing how similar every culture is, but from teaching respect and openess. Real change comes from conversations about different world views and how they interact. There is no “right race,” rather, we are all  racial people, who deserve to have society that opens dialogue about the importance of different cultures.

We are not the same. Saying that we are only strengthens assimilation, denies minorities a voice and homogenizes our culture.


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