The Characteristics that distinguish us as individuals and those we share with others have become burning issues in American life. Stereotypic thinking today tries to place us in rigid categories that limit us, demean us and define us by the lowest common denominator of a dysfunctional group. In the process, everyone loses and we must battle such thinking.
Extremists seek to pigeonhole us simplistically, but we all have multiple, hybrid identities. The challenge is to relate to one another – regardless of background – in ways that encourage social cohesion. Multiple ethnicities and religious views, differing genders and sexual orientations and varying economic and educational levels are facts of life, as are our urban or rural, northern or southern, coastal or midnation backgrounds. But that should not preclude interactions with civility and respect for our mutual benefit.
It is human nature to feel more at ease with those like ourselves, more secure and less defensive. All human sub-groups need positive reinforcement of their self-image, assurance that they are recognized as human beings, respected as social participants and accepted for their values and outlook. Emotional and psychological well-being requires self-esteem, self-confidence and respect from others. Lack of it increases anxiety and depression, anger and hostility. In short, we need to feel comfortable with those like us and with those who differ from us.
By Daniel Rose