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Wow, complicated. While I share any revulsion for hatred and bigotry and straight up profiling, I cannot rid myself of the notion that any group engaged in trumpeting (no pun intended) its intrinsic racial or cultural character is, by dint of said activity, NOT trumpeting a different racial or cultural character. In other words, for example, Viva la Raza translated is Long Live THE Race. The one race, not other races. The implication can be Don’t Long Live the Other Races. Which is what, I think, is the rub. There are those who will say no, keep it simple, we are just rejoicing in our race/culture. I think that kind of “keeping it simple” is merely for simplicity’s sake. It isn’t simple. I remember the feeling in basic training when we all were shorn of our individuality by the cutting of our hair and the donning of the same style clothes (ok, I use style loosely). All of a sudden we were all one culture, all from the same neighborhood, and (yes) all from the same gang. We may have celebrated our diversity in private, but we celebrated our assimilation in public. Of course, to what purpose were we forcibly assimilated? Because there is and will always be Us and Them. Only when absolute diversity exists will diversity mean assimilation. And, even then, we will seek diversity. It may be simply fear that drives that need, and that fear translates into the need to feel confident about our ability to survive or to at least improve our chances. It doesn’t matter whether you search out commonality or enviable characteristics among 26 people on a life raft constructed to only provide safety for 25 — and somebody has gotta go — or whether you pick the smartest guy to sit next to in class or the biggest guy to hang with in middle school or the mate you envision having the greatest kids with — it’s not diversity you’re celebrating. Assimilation is code for acquiring max survival skills. Others know and recognize that effort, and are forced to counter it for their own survival or, at least, ascendancy. If you don’t emphasize diversity, you will be celebrated for your desire to become another member of the gang — your desire to assimilate. Garry Trudeau said it best by one of his characters in one of his strips: “When your own survival depends on recognizing difference, you learn prejudice overnight.” My wish has always been to abdicate diversity and embrace assimilation — in the abstract, at least. I may wear different sneakers in an attempt to be one of a select group of athletes (assuming physical comfort) but I’m not venturing too far out of my zone of assimilation in doing so. The value of assimilation? In combat, it’s all the guys with the US ARMY patch on their shirts (you can be from Cleveland or San Juan or Kyoto or Kabul. In that environment diversity can get you tagged and bagged). In corporate America? Believe it, it will get you promoted (as long as you have talent — corporations aren’t entirely stupid). So, I guess I encourage diversity WITHIN an assimilated culture, in that complete and total assimilation is sort of like incest — no cool genes emerge from mating. But? Assimilation first.

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