The aim of this essay is to study two different articles containing key discussion points that highlight America’s perpetual racial divide, racking them side by side to the deduce whether or not the perceived ideals of equality and diversity are less relevant today than they were a few decades back.
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The first article is Mongrel America by Gregory Rodriguez which postulates that due to mass immigration and interracial relationships, the idea of racial categories itself has become practically irrelevant with time (“Mongrel America”). Citing the example of high out-marriage rates among second and third-generation Hispanics and Asians, Rodrigues suggests that the post-Civil Rights utopian idea of America as a melting pot of different ethnicities and language groups is finally showing results (People Like Us).
This contrasts the nation’s tainted history of segregation in which each racial group was confined to its delineated boundary. Rodriguez argues that the very idea of race itself will become unimportant with time as the pace of “mongrelization” gathers steam.
But the immigrants of recent decades are helping to forge a new American identity, something more complex than either a melting pot or a confederation of separate but equal groups. (“Mongrel America”)
To reveal this complex picture, Rodriguez utilizes demographic trends such as more than 37% African-Americans choosing to identify themselves as bi-racial instead of a monochromatic self-categorization as black, which was the legacy of their ancestors (“Mongrel America”). Accordingly, there is a greater agreement in the need for fostering a unified, shared identity that transcends the barriers of race.
Although there is little doubt that the United States has come a long way in the sphere of racial equality since the Civil Rights era, Rodriguez’s arguments suffer from a few inherent weaknesses. It majorly draws its conclusions by studying demographic trends in California which has over two centuries of experience in being a melting pot of different ethnicities; accordingly, it ignores the racial situation across several homogenous states in the Mid-West, South and even the North-East.
Whereas people, in general, tend to agree with the need for an egalitarian outlook towards the evolving demographic change, Rodriguez’s study ignores the difference between visible trends and ground realities.
In a contrasting study, the faulty logic in Rodriguez’s study has been opposed in great detail across another article by David Brooks, People Like Us. Brooks propositions that the egalitarian vision of America as a nation that cherishes its diversity is nothing but wishful thinking. Brooks’ argument hinges on the fact that even as public and private institutions make their best effort to create a classless, equal opportunity environment, the actions of private individuals tend to be quite far from this notion.
He suggests that although America as a nation has come a long way from the Civil Rights era, an idea with which Rodriguez can find common ground, Americans still have a natural affinity to be aligned with only those who share their value systems and beliefs (“People Like Us”).
Brooks argues that this natural tendency towards self-selection breeds a new era of segregation along different lines: racial, linguistic, hobbies and interests, political beliefs and more. To clarify his viewpoint, Brooks gives an example of politically progressive mountain bikers gravitating towards Boulder, CO.
Once, Boulder, Colorado, became known as congenial to politically progressive mountain bikers, half the politically progressive mountain bikers in the country (it seems) moved there; they made the place so culturally pure that it has become practically a parody of itself (“People Like Us”).
To further sensitize readers about his viewpoint on the realities of human nature, Brooks says people tend to increase their happiness by segmenting themselves from people who are very unlike them (“People Like Us”). He believes the vision of a post-racial utopia which is free from signs of inward prejudice is hopelessly unrealistic.
Brooks further ventures out to say that the shift towards new, segregated identities is a very predictable affair and gives an example of a market research firm Claritas which has been successful in categorizing Americans into precisely sixty-two groups with unique tastes and attributes (“People Like Us”). Further segregation can be seen among college graduates, among voters with either Democrat or Republican political beliefs and church congregation.
While Brooks does offer a contrasting, and bleakly pessimistic view of America’s racial realities, his article fails to touch on the high levels of integration that have been successfully achieved in other spheres of life: the US military, for instance, is a significant example of a nationwide institution, which for many decades, has been valued for its race and class-free organizational structure.
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In conclusion, I will take a balanced position on the subject. In contrast to Brooks, I would suggest the racial realities in America are not as bleak as outlined. There is not only room for further improvement in the future, but demographic trends suggest the emergence of a big, wide generation of youngsters who are free from racial prejudice.
However, as opposed to Rodriguez, I don’t think an entire race and class-free society is entirely for several generations. Rather than live in the hopes of some distant, utopian dream, educators and sociologists should attempt to make justice and equality attainable for one and all.
Brooks, David. “People Like Us”. 35.2 The Atlantic Monthly (2003): 1-12. Print.
Hope, John Franklin. Racial Equality in America. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993. Print.
Rodriguez, Gregory. “Mongrel America.” 12.8 New America Foundation (2003): 1-13. Print.