[ newly edited ]
In an age when diversity is celebrated, and all implicit or similarity bias is being expunged, individual identity faces a mandate: who am I, and where do I belong?
Even as we pursue that definition, we should be ready to accept that each living human has a story which is distinct, not requiring any classification. As a new friend reminds, can we not just be the best “me” we can be? Can we dispense with seeking alliances?
Alliance assumes a need for protection; feeling a need for protection acknowledges the presence of threat. But, wherein does threat present, if every story is recognized and accepted as unique?
If the focus shifts to a recognition of individual value, whence would any group need to band together? Would the BLM movement no longer be required to raise awareness? Would other movements, for other marginalized groups, cease their relevance as well? Banding together, while the need to do so seems immediate, is a far cry from bonding. Motivated by a need to protect one’s own, banding can provoke animosity and enmity, yielding more hostility and strife; by contrast, healthy bonding fosters nourishment, sustaining life. Could we not bond with one another, irrespective of classification by race or ethnicity?
There is an expressed fear, for example, among some members of the Jewish American community – a fear that anti-Semitism will be revealed among those they call friends. Why? Because of a need to feel intact, safe from suppression? Such fear is not unique to the Jewish population; sectarian Christians, for example, experience similar reactions in countries where religious intolerance prevails. Such fear pervades all ethnic groups, races, and religious subgroups when they differ in representation from those in close proximity or when those from outside of their group express bias or prejudice.
Being confronted recently by accusations of anti-Semitism, I was brought into discussion intended to enlighten and educate me. The outcome of the exchange led me to question many things.
To what extent do we derive inherent personal value from our heritage? Should we?
My paternal history is Italian. While I can claim some genetic connection with its rich artistic contribution to world culture, I am also forced to acknowledge the thieving Roman conquerors and even Napoleon, whose progeny in Southern Italy is undeniable. On the maternal side, William the Conqueror emerges in the family line; who was he but yet another marauding narcissist, overtaking all of central England, erecting castles in his wake and siring those who would colonize Africa and India, enslaving millions.
Taken in totality, my “heritage” leaves little to celebrate.
So, whence “identity”?
Accentuating the positive, as the old song intones, I find that elements worthy of distinguishing us can be found in culture. What of the food, the clothing and other textiles, the furnishings and various decor, from every people and part of the planet? What of the art forms – the song, dance, sculpture, design, architecture, and drama? How many different ways can we, as individuals, embody that which binds us historically?
As individuals, we can represent these cultural aspects of our heritage without desiring or seeking any recognition for their relative value. No aesthetic feature is superior to another; neither should any group be.
Every child needs to feel valued; every adult deserves to feel valuable. Each of us is a part of the grand history of humanity. Can we move away from fear and threat, and toward universal acceptance of every feature we contribute to the picture of earth’s people?
This realization was a revelation to me – a revelation of which we can all now be a part. Maybe its insights will lead us toward Renaissance, rather than revolution – and, that, one identity at a time.
© 1/21/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thank you for respecting original written material.