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EDITORIAL: Imagine if the most important identity were ‘human’

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Illustration by Rob Gebelhoff/ robert.gebelhoff@mu.edu

In our ideal world, people would be elected because the majority of voters thought they were the best option. In our ideal world, newspaper headlines wouldn’t say the first gay, black or disabled candidate was elected – they would say a person was elected. In fact, candidates of all social, ethnic and economic groups would win regularly. In our ideal world, people’s intellect would be the deciding factor for their decisions, not bigotry and bias.

Last week, Bill O’Reilly said, “The white establishment is the minority.” What is the “white establishment”? And why on earth does it matter?

Great ideas and role models come from people of all shapes, sizes, races, genders and any other “category” you can think of. But what if we stopped categorizing people and started embracing them?

This method of rejecting different types of people and embracing those who are similar to us is part of this country’s past. There is no way we can, or should, forget our history, but we must also realize what is occurring in our present.

The map of the Electoral College from the 2012 election looks very similar to a map of the two sides in the Civil War in the 1860s. According to the Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law, even the decision by the federal government on where to build highways across the U.S. has depended on the race and demographics of the people in the surrounding areas, creating or reinforcing racial divisions within communities. And yes, 93 percent of the African American vote went to President Barack Obama in this year’s election.

It appears to us that the allegiance people feel to those in the same “group” and the prejudice that divides us are inherently linked.

A person’s identity is one of the most important things in her or his life. Observing and imitating those who are similar to you is part of that identity.

According to the film “Miss Representation,” the same number of 7-year-old boys and girls want to be president of the U.S. when they grow up, but if you ask the same question when they’re 15, there is a “massive gap,” with significantly fewer girls than boys citing this as a goal.

Is this because of the negative way mass media portrays women, as the film suggests? Probably. But it’s just as possible, as the film points out, that girls are dissuaded from becoming president because they have no predecessor to look up to. It is possible that this same theory relates to the overwhelming percent of African American votes Obama received.

We think it’s natural to want to see someone who looks like you succeed because it reinforces the idea that you can also succeed. But what we really need to realize is that despite surface level differences, humanity is what connects us all. In that sense, we are all the same, and differences don’t matter.

Who cares how Mitt Romney or Barack Obama tried to appeal to Hispanic, female or transgender voters? Shouldn’t what a candidate proposes to one group be just as important to all other groups?

Diversity can only succeed when we don’t even notice it. Only when people of all kinds are recognized as equal human beings, not separated by race, religion, sexual orientation or any other factor, can diversity truly exist.

As much as past events have shaped today’s world, we have power right now in determining our future. Our ideal world may remain simply that, an ideal, but there’s no sense in not trying to make it a reality.

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