Tom Patterson: Whatever Happened to Color Blind

The Wall Street Journal told recently of an Illinois school principal who informed his teachers they would “continue on our journey of equity” by splitting into “affinity groups” based on racial identification at their weekly staff meetings. By this means faculty members would be able to “explore and affirm aspects of their identity”, presumably in lieu of discussing school business or their students’ academic progress. “Staff that identifies as individuals of color will meet in Room 226…”

Perhaps this season of celebrating “goodwill to all“ would be a good time to ponder the apparent demise of America’s vision to create a colorblind society. Why has “colorblind“ become controversial as a goal when 50 years ago we cheered Martin Luther King‘s passionate dream of a day when his children could be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin?

But today, racially segregated faculty meetings are no big deal. Americans have grown accustomed to formal, approved racial divisions.

Colleges now feature Black student unions and separate graduation ceremonies. Legislatures divide themselves into Black and Hispanic caucuses with exclusive membership and separate agendas. Major cities like Los Angeles feature whole sections where Whites aren’t welcome. Elsewhere, the cultural appropriation police are relentless.The Boston Museum of Fine Arts sponsored “Kimono Wednesdays” in which visitors could try on a replica of the kimono worn by Claude Monet’s wife in the painting “La Japonaise”. The authentic kimonos were manufactured in Japan specifically for the purpose, yet the museum was widely vilified for cultural insensitivity and racism.

Asian-American “activists“ protested with signs reading “Try on the Kimonon. Learn what it’s like to be a racial imperialist today!“ Even when the museum relented and designated the kimonos for viewing only it was criticized for inviting a “creepy Orientalist gaze“.

An Arab-American author accused Caucasian women who enjoy belly dancing of “white appropriation of Eastern dance“. A Daily Beast writer accused pop star Iggy Azalea of committing “cultural crimes“ by imitating Black rappers. The novelist Catherynne Valente was criticized because her novel “The Orphan’s Tales“ referenced folklore from several cultures including Russian while she wasn’t Russian.

Let’s be clear. There are instances of cultures exploiting each other, such as literal theft of artifacts or intellectual property or making references that are mocking and meant to injure. But this rage over sombrero wearing crosses the boundaries. It’s looking for trouble where there is none.

Ethnic groups coming into contact with each other have long adopted customs and artifacts that they admire or find interesting. It’s more often a compliment than an insult. Western civilization has contributed clothing, literature and rock music, among other things, to the rest of the world. Yet some radicals contend that even making tacos is inherently exploitative.

Let’s see if we can crack the code. If ordinary Americans actually get along pretty well in their daily lives, it is crucial for the political Left, now committed to identity politics for the survival of the Democrat party, to convince us that we are divided into victims and oppressors.

Senator Kamala Harris of California crowed in 2016 that Democrats “won incredible victories by embracing our diversity and rejecting the politics of hate”. But is it really fair to focus only on the candidates’ identity? Isn’t it possible that the Sikh, the lesbian and the transgenders who won office were simply deemed qualified? On the other hand, did all the Rust Belt voters who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 suddenly turn into racists?

Maybe voters have more than racial identity on their minds when they go to the polls. Maybe, like Dennis Prager says, it really is a libel to say that Americans today fundamentally, intentionally oppress minorities. Maybe we would all be better off if all Americans were to accept and find the best in each other rather than to wage cultural warfare.

America isn’t perfect, never has been, never will be. But the interest of all Americans are more alike than different. We all want jobs, strong families, opportunity for all and a prosperous future together. History suggests that the consequence of separatism in a multicultural state is misery and strife.

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