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While We're Not Talking About Race...

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While we're not talking about race, while we have all agreed to be 'too PC' to speak of race and only admit of 'ethnic diversity' ... something very important is happening.

First, let's look at our language: it has become politically correct to refer to human differences in bodily features as 'ethnicity.' However, ethnicity is an anthropological term. Ethnicity is about culture. Culture is about experience as it is played through environmental and social context. Race is about skin color (with some relation to height, musculature, facial features, endocrinology and perhas many other attributes). So race is about genetics. Genetics is about evolution within a physical environment.

The result of traditional human genetics has produced what we call 'black' or 'yellow' or 'red' or 'white'  individuals. (Who knows where these misnomers came from?) And while these differences may suggest a difference in ethnic experience, they definitely relate to differences in genetic race. 

Over many thousands/millions of years, the different human racial types developed and maintained their distinctive features by remaining more or less isolated from each other. Where geographical features brought the different races into contact, genetic mixing inevitably occurred - which gave rise to some intermediate 'races' as can be seen in Indonesia or the Philippines. Experts in this field will likely be correcting my assertions as they read. I'll leave the state of the art of physiological anthropology to those experts. What is of most significance to us here lies not in our origins. As a Northern European, Bi-Coastal-Middle American crossbred mutt, perhaps origins seem less important to me than real-time changes in our racial and experiential infrastructure.

Do you remember what happened as a kid when you mixed all your crayons together in a great scribble or mixed all of your paints together? The result was some kind of nebulous brown. Probably we have all done this a few times - maybe even when decorating our homes. The brown mess that we created by combining all the colors in our crayon box was usually not very appealing. Why? Because the cool tones of primary blue and green were mixed with the warm-tone reds and yellows. 

Until we are perhaps someday mixed with unpredictably hued extra-terrestrial genetics, all of the current human racial types are warm tones: yellow, red, white (which is pink), black (which is usually a dark, warm, brown), etc. When these colors and bodily types blend, the result is - let's face it, Whitey - absolutely beautiful. And it is these mixes that we see in the global citizens of today. The more likely any individual is to have been born of parents who actually experienced the world-at-large, the greater their chance of being of 'mixed race.' Somewhere, one person said "elkjftlkej gabeoroit," while another said, "oiuys kjgse." Et voila! Genetic mixing.  

Today, 'mixed race' is becoming our collective norm. As humans break free of their cultural (ethnic) experience and really spread around the planet, all of our traditional 'races' are beginning to disappear. We are becoming one extended race, which might best be described as the 'human race.' And so it is less likely every day that anyone who can effectively speak to or for any extended demographic, will be easily categorized as 'black,' 'white,' 'yellow,' etc. Because as it is turning out, 'elkjftlkej gabeoroit' and/or 'oiuys kjgse' seems to work very powerfully to stimulate racial mixing.  

Obama's already enormous presence on the world stage brings this issue to the fore. Why does America choose to see Obama as black? Obama is not 'black,' any more than he is 'white.' His mixed-race genetics represent the inevitable future of not only America, but the entire world. His ethnic (experiential, cultural) background is that of a planetary citizen. And look what's happening: In a mad scramble to appear less racially biased, suddenly the mainstream media has 'discovered' black and brown analysts and commentators in great numbers. Wherever they found them, these new talking heads do not speak ghetto talk and they don't emphasize their racial-ethnic difference. In fact they are absolutely indistinguishable from all the other talking heads - until you look up and perhaps notice that their skin tone is non-white. Do you see just how easy it was to get over your initial surprise?

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At the same time, the language of America is also changing: inflections. Vocabulary and sentence structures from the deep south, from urban ghettos and from (for some reason) the subculture of long haul truckers are creeping into the speech patterns of mainstream America. I would suggest that this cultural (ethnic) 'mixing' of language is occurring in the same way that our racial (genetic) makeup is undergoing rapid change.

Language difference, race and ethnic experience are all being mixed into a new homogeneity. But not just mixed together, synergized into a new, planetary community. This is an important departure from the old paradigm of America as 'the great mixing pot,' in which deeply rooted ethnic experience was expected to yield to the somehow grander experience of being 'American.' By that model, ethnicity was expected to disappear in a generation or two. By now we have learned that it does not. 

As a culture we have spent the past several decades working to recognize the inherent diversity in a multi-ethnic population. Those who come to the 'American' experience with pasts rooted in sometimes very ancient ethnic traditions are seeing as bringing something 'new' to the American mix. Whether our commitment to diversity succeeds in its aims is a matter of balance: as with most things cultural it has been difficult to find a reasonable balance. Some of the imported cultural raditions (for example, mutiliation and oppression) are obviously unworthy of continuation; others are potentially invaluable. 

We have, at least, a concept - a construct - that enables us to create a more inclusive paradigm of cultural blending. Maybe it is time to bring it to bear upon our experience of  racial-ethnic mixing. The concept of synergy describes 'that which is greater than the sum of its parts.' Combined race with race, ethnicity with ethnicity and what results may be 'greater' than what occurs when we try to extinguish ethnic differences and subsume them into our fantasy 'melting pot.'

Greater implies something more, something causing greater effect, something better or having extended qualities. And this is exactly what is happening. As soon as we let go of our racial expectations and ethnic biases, it is obvious that 'brown is the new white,' that human skin color and bodily types are being generalized around the planet.

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Ethnicity - that almost intangible symbol of cultural experience - is only beginning to be understood as a resource for the broader American mix. Different ways of problem solving, different ways of organizing families and social groups and lately, even well developed ways of dealing with issues of survival are all beginning to be noticed and utilized. And if we can And as we let go of our gender biases (on both sides of whatever gender divide we see to need to maintain), the voice that we perceive as connoting leadership, power or authority is becoming of indeterminate pitch: man and woman, and L., G., B.  and T. (etc.) are simply becoming ‘person.’

Instead of this resulting in a bland sameness, it is producing magnificent individual difference! We are bringing the best (i.e., the most relevant, most useful, most able to navigate the future of humanity) of all ethnic psychologies and all races together and in that pooling , natural diversity is being achieved. In America, this synergy began in our multi-ethnic, urban centers - just walk around in New York or Los Angeles! - and now it is extending into the rural areas.

We need to embrace this change with all the respect that it is due. We have made a secular religion of evolution. Now it is time to celebrate its full expression across the palette of human difference and ethnic experience. We are becoming all one family, whether we want to or not. Let's want to! Barack Obama is certainly not the first world leader to be of mixed race. This phenomenon only seems 'new' in the context of our American, cultural traditions of racist hierarchy and the concentration of wealth and power in the exclusive club of the 'Old White Men.’

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Jai Daemion (MS, MEd couns) explores a meta-perspective that integrates realms of psychotherapy, psychophysical integration and the study of culture and consciousness, using eastern-western and inner-outer tools. Still holding (more...)

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