Protests and Principles: Means and Ends
Updated: Jun 15
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article called "How America Made Me White."
I just got around to rereading it in the light of recent and current events, to see if I'd change any of it.
Although I do not understand all that is going on in our country today, I'm nevertheless even more sure now that these few lines from the end of the article capture the only stable basis for simultaneous peace and justice for all in the long-run.
If you want my help to build a country where more people can enjoy more of the privileges I enjoy every day, just ask me. Don’t threaten me. I’m already in; not out of guilt or because a group that you’ve defined me into owes something to a group you’ve defined me out of.
Rather, I’m in because there’s only one group, and we’re all in it.
Not only do I believe that's true: I believe it's the only belief about humanity that is consistent with anti-racism and anti-chauvinism of all kinds.
Yet, I hear the cries of my fellow countrymen and women for whom the last sentence in that quote does not describe their lived experiences. And their experiences of being treated differently from others are the legitimate motivation for America's current protests.
The demand is that everyone gets to experience that fundamental truth ("there’s only one group, and we’re all in it") in their own lives.
That demand is just and right. It can be met for the long-term only if that statement is both our goal (ends) and the principle that guides us toward the goal (means).
Discrimination is an evil that is its own mirror image: it is (more obviously) seeing an out-group of inferior others, and (more insidiously, but identically) seeing an in-group of our superior selves.