“The lack of attention to white identity and self-labeling reflects the historical power held by Whites in the United States. That is, Whites as the privileged group take their identity as the norm or standard by which other groups are measured, and this identity is therefore invisible, even to the extent that many Whites do not consciously think about the profound effect being white has on their everyday lives.“ (Lustig and Koester 2013:132)
I am not an American, but the above quote from Judith Martin, Robert Krizek, Thomas Nakayama, and Lisa Bradford is an important reflection today as the racial divide continues to spiral downward in N.America. When I consider the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the “All Lives Matter” response, I found the unexamined cultural identity of the European Americans as the unquestioned standard of what matters has been exposed and rationalized. While it is true that all human lives matter, especially in the sight of God, supporters of #AllLivesMatter might have missed the point of the movement and inadvertently diverted the conversation to something of less relevant. I believe the issue of #BlackLivesMatter is more than the present-day killing and shooting of young black men at the hands of law enforcement, but it is a call to examine the history of bias and unresolved racial tension brought about by the unexamined cultural identity of white Americans; White Americans who believe they are the standard of measure regarding intellect, civility, and freedom. Such superior view of their identity leads to their belief that they, not others, are more able to define the value of lives for everyone. They failed to see that their unspoken self-superiority was what led to the injustices experienced through history by others. Instead of discussing whether the shooting was justified because of someone’s record, the discussion should be on the accountability of the dominant white culture in ignoring and derailing the flourishing of the African-American people which led to the struggle of its people from childhood to adulthood. The dominant culture has failed to provide any hope for the oppressed; it has only provided the standard and the consequence for failing their norms.
Conscious awareness of advantages and disadvantages of our cultural identity on our daily lives is often uncomfortable. We do not like to look at ourselves as an oppressor or advantageous in a time when we desire to highlight equality and fair play, but it is in front of us each day, even as Canadians when we take the transit and are confronted by the many transients and indigenous people who are struggling to be recognized and be treated as those that ‘matter’. Their lives matter, their stories matter, and we certainly need to move from an unexamined cultural identity to a reconciled identity: An identity that seeks forgiveness from those we devalued intentionally or unintentionally.
- Lustig, Myron W. and Jolene Koester, Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication Across Cultures (Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2013).