Divided America

September 23, 2017


I remember a time when Americans wanted equality for all people, regardless of the color of their skin. A time when a little-known evangelical preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. became an icon for his willingness to stand up for true racial equality, particularly in the eyes of the law. A time when people wanted to be measured by their work ethic, integrity and character and not their appearance. A time when our parents taught us that sticks and stones could break our bones, but words could never hurt us. That was a great America.


Today, America is nearly as divided as it was during the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. Our nation has become so polarized that many have once again reverted to judging people based on the color of their skin instead of the content of their character. A recent example of this is Harvard University’s “Blacks Only” graduation. What would the great Martin Luther King Jr. think about this intentional segregation? This and other examples serve as clear indicators that identity politics is deeply dividing our country.


So what is identity politics you might ask? It is when people decide to form exclusive political alliances based solely on similarities of race, religion, background, or the like. In other words, it is when people adopt the “Us vs. Them” mentality and sow the seeds of division. This division is in turn what leads to civil wars and great conflicts like those raging in the Middle East. It is a barbaric way of looking at the world and is simply un-American and unacceptable.


A great figure like MLK would encourage us to join together, people of all colors and cultural backgrounds, and stand against this narrative of division. We cannot let something as unimportant as skin color overshadow a huge accomplishment like graduating from college. At the end of the day, we are all human beings with souls, emotions, and desires.  


But what is holding us back? It is the extremes on the political spectrum. Ideologies form a horseshoe with the two ends on the horseshoe being the far-left and the far-right.  Just as the two ends of the horseshoe are so close together, so are the far-left and the far-right. The major bond that these two ideologies share is that they both are rooted in identity politics.  Both become so focused on physical appearance that they fail to realize that skin color is not a prerequisite for being an upstanding person.  The scariest part about these two extreme political ideologies mixing is that the line of distinction becomes so blurred that we are left with a group of people who aim to throw hate in any direction possible.  


However, we can practically address this problem by listening to others and encouraging discussion. We can acknowledge that the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political ideology, denounce racism and are upset with this narrative of division and hate in our country.  The broader majority can choose to ignore the fringe groups and bring unity to this country instead.  We must be Americans first if we expect to ever be the America that we were after the Civil Rights movement. Let us begin to see each other once again as human beings who are all made equal by the Creator and possess the undeniable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then, and only then, will we be able to become the great country we once were.

















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