Let’s drop our tribal divisions and unite as Americans.
By Zack Wright — August 8, 2016
Racism is not a problem in the United States Marine Corps. There is no distinction between black or white Marines — or any color in between. Drill instructors, NCOs, and commanding officers alike teach their men that there are no races in the Marines — to the Corps, whether you are light green or dark green is irrelevant. We are all green, and that is all that matters. For many decades, Marines of all different shades have fought, bled, and died beside each other. Promotion is based on performance scores, not on race. Discipline is based on individual action, not on race. Marines identify as Marines, not as a race.
If more Americans discarded the divisive labels that are thrust upon us every day by government policy, progressive ideology, and popular culture, we would have a much more united, less factionalized, less racist society.
One of the first things I remember being taught in life is that skin color does not matter. Discrimination, segregation, and hatred are wrong. Separate is not equal. I took this nugget of truth to heart and I have tried to live my life in a manner that confirms that ideal. Race is an artificial human social construction, a construction which has been a powerful force in conquest, enslavement, segregation, apartheid, murder, and genocide. Race is a negative force; it is a way for people to justify division and separation between groups of people.
Just over 100 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt, in a famous speech, called for discarding the hyphen that many Americans carried as part of their identity. He argued that maintaining the hyphen in American society, would lead to the eventual destruction of America. “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all,” Roosevelt said, “would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”
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Last year, then–Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal echoed this sentiment when he said of his parents, “They weren’t coming [to America] to raise ‘Indian-Americans.’ They were coming to raise Americans.” Jindal proclaimed that he was tired of hyphenated Americans, a practice which only divides us.
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. called for the end of racism in America. He dreamed that we would “one day live in a nation” where Americans “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Unfortunately, our nation has changed from the United States I knew in my youth to the country that we live in today. While I concede that my perspective has changed from that of a child to that of an adult, I believe that our country — while never having fully succeeded in discarding racism in the past — has regressed in the last decade. It’s true that the evil, government-sanctioned horror that was chattel slavery and Jim Crow are long gone. Public schools have been integrated for more than four decades. In theory all U.S. citizens are equal under the law. In 2008, we elected a black president.
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Yet despite these signs of progress, today we are mired in a backward-trending divisive ideology of self-segregation, fruitless categorization, and tribalism. I watched in profound sadness and disappointment in the winter of 2014 when, in the midst of the terrible self-destructive riots in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama, the man with the perhaps greatest opportunity to lead our country into reconciliation and unity since Reconstruction, instead further divided our country. I was listening, waiting to be led to a new America, and he left me disappointed and Ferguson burning.
The end state of the progressive ideology that celebrates and reinforces race as an important distinction in employment, crime, education, and politics is a society that is further split into warring factions. It is rolling back the spirit of E Pluribus Unum. Instead of uniting the country as one, it seeks to divide us based on the color of our skin. Our young people are assaulted by a racial ideology that tears us apart. Divisive jokes, slurs, nicknames, and categorization confront our youth every day. Rap songs, social media, and popular culture all reinforce that divide instead of minimizing it. But instead of finding ways to move past these troubles, progressive ideology seeks to normalize racial slurs rather than eliminate them.
I have experienced racism in my life. Things have been assumed about me because of my appearance. I have been called slurs. I have gotten in fights. I, too, have been categorized against my will. I am one of the millions of Americans who does not fit into the convoluted categories and divisions that government policy and racial ideology try to force us into. I refuse to be categorized based on my skin color or ancestry by anyone — but especially by the government.
In order to exercise your constitutional right to buy a firearm in the United States you must fill out the ATF 4473 form from which a background check is conducted. Buyers are required by our government to categorize themselves by answering two questions: Question 10A on ethnicity requires you to check “Hispanic or Latino” or “Not Hispanic or Latino”; Question 10B requires a buyer to define himself by choosing at least one of: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or White.
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Archaic classification systems are non-scientific, flawed, divisive, and pointless. How should a person answer whose parents and ancestors were Arabs born in Egypt? What about white people born in New Zealand? Are they not Pacific Islanders? Is it not insane that Lebanese, Pashtun, Bengali, Tamil, Turkish, Cambodian, Indonesian, and, of course, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans are all classified by our government as “Asian”?
One of the most insulting incarnations of racism today is the idea of race-based voting. Whenever politicians and media predict the outcome of the “Black vote” or the “Latino vote,” I cringe. How is it not racist for someone to assume — or even expect — an individual to vote based on the color of his or her skin? What is more racist than to ascribe a person’s political views to her physical appearance? Should not a person vote his conscience? Should not experience, philosophy, religion, economic status, residency, education, occupation, and morality have far more to do with an individual’s political perspective than his or her pigmentation? Expecting someone to think, behave, or vote a certain way based on skin color is as racist as segregation. And yet many who dare dissent from the politics they are expected to hold based on skin color are often called traitors or Uncle Toms.
I am a conservative American who hates racism. I am in fact actively anti-racist: I want to live my life in a way so that my tiny corner of the universe is positively improved by practicing anti-racism. What is the end state of divisive racial ideology? It is unending division. For progressives, is there ever a point where Asian Americans, African Americans, European Americans, Hispanic Americans (another socially constructed category — arbitrarily divided from Native Americans) can just be Americans? Not that I’m aware of. Progressive ideology seems to want to divide us — permanently.
Alternatively, the admittedly far-off and idealistic goal for American society from a conservative perspective is color blindness. If race shouldn’t matter in how we judge individuals, let’s treat it like it doesn’t matter. Let’s remove race as a criterion for consideration. Conservatives should work toward a society where nothing is influenced or decided based on the color of a person’s skin. A truly uniting policy would be to move beyond these feudal bonds of socially constructed imprisonment. Let us cast off any stereotypes, assumptions, benefits, grievances, or impairments based on the amount of melanin in a person’s hide.
Encouragingly, there is a precedent for this idea in American history — when disparate groups of English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Welsh, and Scottish colonists became, simply, American. Later, the Poles and Italians became Americans. The Irish — once thought to be too different to ever truly assimilate into our culture — became Americans. During the First World War many Americans of Germans descent made tangible changes in their customs and culture to become, simply, Americans.
I am not advocating that you forget your heritage or ancestry. As free men and women, by all means celebrate your ancestry and heritage as you please, but remember that we are an American Nation, and that “American” is our nationality — something far more important and unifying than the artificial and destructive concept of race.
So let me join with President Roosevelt and Governor Jindal in calling for an end to hyphenated Americans. Let us drop our tribal divisions and embrace our shared heritage and nationality. Let us unite as Americans. Let us remember that separate is not equal. I hope that, as Americans, we will move toward a color-blind, post-race, and post-racist society. That is the only way to end racism.
— Zack “Cookie” Wright was a sergeant in Lima Company, Third Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment and is a veteran of the Iraq War.