I’m a child of the sixties, and I shared MLK’s dream. I believe he saw racism and tribalism as a more generic and endemic problem in human society, though. At least I interpreted him that way, and I still worry about America and the world not being colorblind. That concept is more generic too. Race and ethnicity go far beyond the color of our skins. Differences in religious beliefs and sexual orientation creep in too. After all, colorblindness is seeing the world in a neutral, non-judgmental fashion, considering every human being as a unique person who we judge on their merits, not by their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, and sexual orientation. If this were ever to happen, hatred and bigotry would be thing of the past.
Sometimes discrimination and prejudice are hidden. When I was in Colombia, I saw them hiding among white members of the political, powerful elites in the center of the country; darker skinned “immigrants” from the poor, coastal regions (both Atalantic and Pacific), called by the neutral term Costeños but rarely treated in a neutral fashion, were often victims. I’m sure Colombians thought they were a colorblind society, but, as a child of the sixties observing their country, I recognized their problem if only because America’s is so much worse. Even before the sixties, my father often spoke about the lack of a more generic form of colorblindness I speak of—Armenians talking about their holocaust during World War One; Japanese grocers referring to their internment during World War Two; Jewish deli owners talking about friends and relatives murdered in the Nazi’s death camps, the worst holocaust in world history.
The huge waves of immigration in the 19th century created a ghetto mentality in America that can be seen as an extension of Reconstruction after the Civil War leading to bigotry and hatred unleashed against blacks that still remains. Tribalism is part of our evolutionary heritage—in pre-history tribes protected their members from other tribes. In modern history, they still do. A ghetto foments racial identity through tribalism. Blacks might say that they’re beyond that. I’m not sure. Everything from TV sitcoms like Blackish (why is tribalism funny?) to Kwanza (do we need an all-black religious observance?) to all-black frat and sorority houses to all-black churches—all this screams tribalism to me, a scientific observation with nothing pejorative intended. The same phenomenon occurs for Hispanic and Asian culture. If there’s a Puerto Rican Day parade in NYC, why not a Black History parade or Southeast Asian parade? If Univision and black TV channels exist, why not Jewish channels? If a campus has a Black Culture Center, why not an Irish Culture Center? These manifestations of ghetto mentality show the absurdity of tribalism in America. Pride in and celebrating one’s cultural heritage, or lamenting it, should never stand in the way of constructing a colorblind America and world.
I have no problem celebrating America’s diversity. I certainly do so in my books; they represent my public face to the world now. But I’m serious about my belief that we will not solve the problems of this nation and the world until they are colorblind in the more general sense. Progress has to be made from the top down as well as from the bottom up. Discrimination and bigotry of any kind cannot and should not be institutionalized by governments or corporations. And persons in their individual family and work lives should eschew any ghetto attitudes that can lead to discrimination and bigotry. We’ve all seen photos from the International Space Station. It’s one world, folks, we’re all in this together, and we’re all human beings desiring the same thing—food, fresh water, good-paying jobs, decent housing, education for our kids, and other basic human rights.