The Age of the Creative Minority

Nov 24, 2021 · 122 comments
ASPruyn (California - Somewhere left of center)
There are lots of reasons to turn our attention away from the group that we part of, whether that group is Americans, Germans, Chinese, Liberals, Conservatives, Black, White, Asian, etc. Perhaps the biggest is that we all have to live together. If you are in a lifeboat, in freezing water, with two identity groups separated fore and aft, it does not matter whether the hole in the boat is fore or aft, it is a problem for all in that boat. It is all of our problem. Last time I checked, space is a foreboding place of extreme cold and heat, and not a lot of oxygen. A hole in “Spaceship Earth” is something that affect us all. The group that I could claim membership in is often seen as the enemy, White Upper Middle Class. But that masks two facts. One is that I didn’t pick that group, I was born into it. The other is that I routinely take part, at personal expense, in helping or educating others. The differences in the personal genetics between identity groups is rather small, we are all Homo-Sapiens, and not that different from the other species on this globe. If we treat each other with dignity and respect, we might just fix all those holes in our global lifeboat. If we don’t, it is awfully cold out there.
Tim Barrus (Blue Ridge Mountains)
I am a communist. Who does not comprehend America. I don't get how it works. I do not fathom how an economic paradigm like capitalism can hold history and call it this side of one inch at a time slippage toward another On Our Knees, begging at the Gates of Beautiful, and discovering that every culture inherits Bethlehem's War Between the States which was how Americans described their situation fully ten years before your country turned into a righteous blood bath where whatever god is presiding today, will drain you if you cannot perform. You learn the facsimile of folding your media hands and smiling. The Hang Them South, gives thanks to a culture whose very roots are rot at the dinner table from which we eat the legacy of genocide after genocide. I wrote the book, Genocide. You never heard of it. No kidding. I implicated my neighbors in omniscient murder. Americans hide behind their We Are Better Than You Because We Have More Stuff. Conservatives are not telling you the truth because that is exactly what hurts with wounds that do not heal, never get better, and it has hindered us in our acquired, deeply turbulent questioning: Why Are We Here. The reality is that American society truly believes we are here to have more stuff because it is never enough stuff. We get to dress our righteous identities up in the costumes of conformity. A united front that sneaks in the sad back door, hangs its sad coat up on the coat pegs, and gets to work cleaning the sadistic House of Usher.
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat Gan)
"Integration without assimilation is the only way forward. It is, as the prophet Jeremiah suggested, to transmit the richness of your own cultures while seeking the peace and prosperity of the city to which you have been carried." You refer to Jeremiah 29:5-7 when Jeremiah suggests to those exiled from Judah to make the best of it in Babylonia. Integration without assimilation. Jeremiah said a lot of things. I prefer chapter Chapter 32: 42 “This is what the Lord says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them. 43 Once more fields (= in Judah) will be bought in this land (=Israel) of which you say, ‘It is a desolate waste, without people or animals, for it has been given into the hands of the Babylonians.’ 44 Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes,[c] declares the Lord.” One might define this resurrected nationalism. Works for me.
KevJam (New York)
People are impressionable. Keep telling them they’re victims. Obsessively pivot to “identity”. Modern America.
Nicholas Halfinger (2021, January)
I am reminded of a relevant item from an imaginary world, the world of Star Trek, the original series: IDIC. From Memory Alpha - “IDIC was an acronym for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, the basis of Vulcan philosophy, celebrating the vast array of variables in the universe. The philosophy, as well as the Vulcan people, were often represented by a triangle-over-circle insignia, referred to as an "IDIC." (TOS: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" Until we can appreciate how the differences between us can enrich us instead of dividing us, until we can accept that the universe is broader than limits of our understanding without retreating into unreasoning fear, we will fail to realize our full potential as an allegedly intelligent species.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
I do agree with the thesis of this column. We are all very much the same but that includes the same kinds of contrariness and ornery inclinations. Humans survival skills lie mostly in the instincts to affiliate with others to share the benefits of cooperative groups. Unfortunately, that means treating people as in the group or outside the group, us and them. In terms group mortality the stranger is an adversary and a threat. We have that ability to affiliate with many groups and to affiliate with super groups like citizenship in a great state. But we are all individuals with like needs and inclinations, and learning that can end this mess in which we find ourselves. Liberal democracy is founded upon a consensus that majorities’ decisions will represent the interests of all, not that winning decisions by majority votes gives the right to rule as the majority sees fit.
Ed (Minneapolis, MN)
I have to say I agree with Mr. Brooks this time. Be wary of those on your “side” that extol hate, even if it is for perceived oppressors. Be wary of those who say others’ suffering is not real or is exaggerated. Everyone deserves loves and everyone is suffering. Even white old male republicans. They die before me at the hospital from COVID-19. Are these the lucky ones? They who are fed hate and lies? We have come far and we have far to go. Let us not devolve into a world of us versus them. Let us seek love for all, understanding for all, accountability, self-doubt, hope, and humility. Let us renew each day our resolve to believe in humanity. And for goodness sakes let’s stop and just give thanks for once. The fact that you are reading this is a miracle.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
My grandparents were from the same country but each chose different degrees of integration. I do not think that immigrants can avoid the integration model. It is their children and grandchildren who can opt for the other three groups. It is common for the first generation that grows up in this country to retain cultural values of their parents as well as the cultural values which they assimilate here. Their children are the ones who can reject the culture from their grandparents most frequently. Then there are the groups into which people come to affiliate here. Those groups have often shared memories going back generations which each generation makes their own. Those memories can perpetuate conflicts long past any other reason than resentments.
Mario D. Mazzarella (Newport News, VA)
We can celebrate whatever distinct characteristics we have, of religion, culture or background while appreciating, respecting and learning from all other cultures and people. That creates the "unum" from the "pluribus." This diminishes no one and uplifts everyone. Doing so reflects the wisdom of the ancient Latin motto: "I am human, and nothing human is alien to me." Or, as Bill Clinton once put it: "We've got to stop all this talk about "them" and "us." There's no "them;" there is only "us."
Mark Baer (Pasadena, CA)
Brooks is saying the following: Assimilation is the elimination of diversity. It is the difference between fitting in and belonging -- it's about fitting in. Social science researcher Brene' Brown explained the difference as follows: "Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” For LGBTQ+ people, fitting in means pretending to be cisgender and straight. Separatism involves segregation, which includes self-segregation from those we perceive as being members of a different tribe because the look, act and/or think differently than we do. Separatism for people is like silos for business divisions. Separatism constricts the information received, understood and considered. The more constricted and distorted the information received, understood and considered, the more impaired the thinking involved. Combat is based upon an adversarial, win/lose, binary worldview. Winning a dispute is not the same as resolving a conflict or improving the parties’ understanding of each other. And, winning is not the same as being right, fair, just, ethical and moral. Integration without assimilation is about belonging. I agree with Brooks.
SBO (Austin, TX)
My south Asian Hindu family came here in the 70s. My parents approached assimilation like it was a mandate for staying in the US. Our native tongue was never spoken at home, we joined our neighbors at church, we memorized all the carols, ate all the fast food, joined Amway, etc. The garage was packed with boxes of old cricket equipment, hand made batik art, etc never to see the light of day. Despite my best efforts to act American, I was bullied by racist white boys almost daily (with white girls laughing in the background). Sometimes my teachers would laugh too. Every day was like getting a PHD in white, conservative Judeo-Christian culture. Integration? First show me the white Americans who have spent their entire lives learning about my culture as much as I have spent learning about theirs. You can’t have integration w/o mutual understanding and respect. I’ve put in the work to assimilate. Who’s going to put in the work to integrate? While I appreciate the spirit of David’s piece, 2021 has exposed how little respect white America has for diversity and its minorities. The moment minorities stand up, ask for representation, ask for changes in the ways we characterize our history/experience in this country, it gets uniformly mocked as “wokeness.” Are we surprised? White conservative/rich liberal America is now under attack, and now we, the minority class, must censor ourselves, offer them food that is familiar, and once again prove we are not a threat. Happy Thanksgiving!
Jose Pieste (OH)
"Integration without assimilation is the only way forward.” This is a backward and inaccurate view. The fact is, the more distant Americans become from their immigrant origins, the more impossible it becomes NOT to evolve into some sort of generic American (assimilationist) identity. My family is now three to four generations removed from its immigrant origins. We are a mixed-up amalgamation of people with English, Irish, German, Polish, Russian, Jewish, Arabic and Latin origins. We can’t even keep track of our “ethnic” identities anymore. So we have no choice but to be just “Americans” now.
Mark Baer (Pasadena, CA)
What Brooks means by assimilation is the elimination of diversity or the attempt to do so. The elimination of diversity is a fascist means of “resolving conflict.” They resolve it by eliminating it. That can be done through erasure, such as preventing representation and acknowledgement of it and at the most extreme, it leads to genocide.
Michael (Evanston, IL)
It seems that America from the get-go was founded on separatism and combat. Around the time of the mythical first Thanksgiving (whatever it actually was) the Pilgrims began to slaughter the indigenous people. And by that time I believe African slaves were already being imported to American shores. Separatism and combat seem to be in the American DNA. They were the dynamics that drove the foundation America was built on. Secondly, what Brooks leaves out of the discussion of divisive mindsets is class. What is (and always has been) sacralized in America is free-market capitalism. We are not a democracy or republic or federalist system; we are a corporatocracy. And it is that arrangement, one devoid of any social contract, that fuels the inequity and sows division in this country more than anything else. You can’t have integration without assimilation if you have the wealthiest 1 percent of families in the United States holding about 40 percent of all wealth and the bottom 90 percent of families holding less than one-quarter of all wealth. So, the prophet Jerimiah spoke of transmitting cultural richness while seeking peace and prosperity – but, prosperity for whom?
Mark Baer (Pasadena, CA)
While I agree with you, that doesn’t mean it’s the way forward, regardless of the past. And, when I say the way forward, I mean the ideal way forward because there are many other and more likely ways forward.
William Gipson (Philadelphia)
This was pretty lightweight and grossly simplified. Brook’s ignored the very structures that disadvantage people from some groups to maintain power and control for one single group. I can’t imagine that Brook’s is unaware of this. It’s puzzling that he failed to acknowledge it.
Avery G (Jacksonville)
I have stopped filling out the race parts of questionnaires and encourage everyone to do the same. Only when we all stop truly identifying as a race or an ethnic group on these "identity" forms can we get beyond this.
SteveRR (CA)
Ignoring the obvious that tribalism is the greatest source of current evil in the world. I get that the woke-folk hate the idea of assimilation - I mean who wants to give up their identity even if it is merely a magical amalgam of poorly defined "ism's" mixed with a smattering of victimology. We can see the battle for assimilation versus identity unfolding in Europe - particularly in France, the UK and Germany. Perhaps a brief reflection on those case studies might have useful conclusions for America and assimilation.
chris (louisiana)
@SteveRR The basis of tribalism is probably encoded in our DNA.
John (Midwest)
Great piece and comments. Two things. First, David challenges as a "dangerous falsehood" the idea that the line between good and evil runs between groups. Bingo. If we do not strive to see others as individual "persons", to be judged on their own merits, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or religious group membership - just as the 14th Amendment and 1964 Civil Rights Act expressly command - then we have no legitimate expectation that they do so with us. Second, David writes that "Americans are a deeply religious people, even when they think they're not being religious." This seems to describe the illiberal left that dominates places like academia. They piously mouth, but never clearly define, magical phrases like "diversity," "inclusion," and "social justice." These terms thus function like "praise Jesus" or "hallelujah" - for blind consumption by the faithful. They partake of neither legal, policy, nor philosophical analysis.
Bibhu Mohanty (Del Mar)
I have always admired Mr. Brooks for his thoughtfulness and precise articulation although sometimes I have disagreed with him. But he is precisely on the spot in his opinion on integration of cultures and societies which is a topic dear to me and my family. One doesn't have to give up one's heritage nor has to stay insular, particularly as an immigrant carving out one's life in the adopted country. You can take the best of both worlds and define a new you, category 4. The other thing I loved in the piece is the exposition that the line between good and evil doesn't run around groups of individuals, rather it goes through every individual - a very elegant way to summarize the current problem that we face. Thank you, Mr. Brooks.
B. Rothman (NYC)
White people are a minority on the planet. They just didn’t realize it before and don’t like it now. Likewise Christianity is a minority religion on the planet and that’s also an uncomfortable truth. It would be a “blessing,” to use their own own terminology, if white Christians developed a sense of equanimity towards others rather than their intensely held notion of superiority. Sadly, this also fosters their worst fears about “others” who are not like them. Time for them to grow bigger and more encompassing in their “love” and not unconsciously exclude others or resent them.
Michael (Evanston, IL)
It seems that America from the get-go was founded on separatism and combat. Around the time of the mythical first Thanksgiving (whatever it actually was) the Pilgrims began to slaughter the indigenous people. And by that time I believe African slaves were already being imported to American shores. Separatism and combat seem to be in the American DNA. They were the dynamics that drove the foundation America was built on. Secondly, what Brooks leaves out of the discussion of divisive mindsets is class and the capitalism that drives it. What is (and always has been) sacralized above everything else in America is free-market capitalism. We are not a democracy or republic or federalist system; we are a corporatocracy. And it is that arrangement, one devoid of any social contract, that fuels the inequity and sows division in this country more than anything else. You can’t have integration without assimilation if you have the wealthiest 1 percent of families in the United States holding about 40 percent of all wealth and the bottom 90 percent of families holding less than one-quarter of all wealth. So, if the prophet Jerimiah did speak of transmitting cultural richness while seeking peace and prosperity, he spoke long before the advent of capitalism which - in the unfettered free-market form - provides prosperity for only the few. This results in economic minorities and erodes one's ability "to live a life with dignity and meaning, to have some positive impact on the world."
William Gipson (Philadelphia)
@Michael this is a good response.
GV (San Diego)
I could check several minority boxes but never do. While integration without assimilation is good for the intellectual types, we should not promote it as an American value. Identity has become the primary ill that ails our society.
MJM (Scottsdale AZ)
"Creative minority" When you are "creative" in America you are certainly part of a minority. A minority that is denied loans to start a business by a bank, denied a mortgage and denied a good credit score because being part of a "creative minority" is to be outside of the wage system and part of the "gig economy" which is great for a few lucky souls and dreadful for the rest.
Stewart (Pawling NY)
We’ll-done column. You have been able to distill what I have not had the ability to put into words. Our focus on the horrible trump years has clouded the issues that have allowed him to rise to power, and those now make the Republican Party unrecognizable. It’s not just about keeping and abusing political & economic power; it’s about validating one’s existence in a post-melting pot society. When folks say, “I’m not a racist” they are fighting for themselves to stay relevant. The unintended consequences devalue the “other.” It is now so clear. But what do we do next? What follows choice #4? Be it in the USA or EU, we just don’t know.
Traveled (US)
Many Americans do not appreciate their good fortune. Many people are unable to be thankful and to feel simple gratitude.
Ramesh G (Northern California)
Now if Brooks can only explain how two largest states - California and Texas - both majority minority - ended up on completely opposite sides of politics and culture ..
R (USA)
“The assimilationists feel constricted by their minority identity. They want to be seen as individuals, not as a member of some outsider category.” It’s interesting, I see a lot of argument these days about the majority white culture and how it seems like there is a desire by the white majority to force minority groups to assimilate into this culture in various ways. We’ll guess what? 150 years ago all these white people didn’t think of themselves as a big homogeneous group of white people either. They thought of themselves as English, Irish, German, Italian, Polish, Catholic, Protestant, etc. Nearly every white person in this country is descended from people who originally considered themselves a member of those groups first and American second, and faced discrimination when they arrived. So why are all of these divisions between white groups no longer an issue today? (outside of a few minor east coast enclaves) Because all of these groups assimilated into what became American culture. What was the result of that? The vast majority of their descendants no longer harp on these pointless divisions that keep people in different groups fearful, suspicious, and resentful of one another (sound familiar?) So the lesson learned for me as one who’s ancestors went through this is that when people make the effort to understand each other and integrate, people unify culturally and think of each other as equals instead of ‘others’ to be feared and misunderstood. Food for thought..
Paul (San Mateo)
@R I’m an Irish immigrant, coming here in the 50s. Yes, there was separation and even prejudice but I could always fall into whiteness. Whiteness is the great equalizer, color the great (and unalterable) separator.
dc (Here)
How about another mind-set: not-self. Letting go of the idea that we are fixed and static in any number of our "intersections."
KJ McNichols (Pennsylvania)
“Integration without assimilation” had been acknowledged by pretty much everyone over the last 60 years as the only way forward. Over the last ten years, we allowed a small fraction of people to create a different impression, inspired by fringe academic theories, driven by social media, and acquiesced by a supine elite. But people have now awakened. The backlash won’t be pretty.
Tal Day (Alexandria VA)
The quote from Jeremiah addressing the Jews in exile in Babylon is especially apposite. We live by different codes, come from different traditions and have so much to contribute to each other and the national good. We can do so by being good citizens, acting with kindness and walking humbly with our God.
C. M. Jones (Tempe, AZ)
One of the reasons I won’t have kids and pair bond is the violence of the universe. Animals eating animals. Birds eating smaller creatures while they are alive. Fish eating fish. Humans required to fight for what they believe. Most parents teach their kids to fight. So much violence. Violence is baked into the fabric of the universe. It is said that we are made in the image of God. Lately, I’ve taken this to mean that God is a group of extremely attractive, wealthy, and extroverted humans from the future who created this simulation for their own benefit. The rest of us who are not attractive or wealthy or extroverted merely exist to serve those who are. Count me out.
Nav Pradeepan (Ontario, Canada)
Assimilation is more beneficial than the other categories because it has the greatest potential to promote national unity. It has not been successful because of the expectation that one must shed her/his group affiliation. Why should that be a prerequisite? Assimilation can co-exist with the spirit of multiculturalism. It can support one's choice to be a non-hyphenated American or a hyphenated American depending on the social setting. Integration without assimilation, while worthy of its merits, devalues shared identities and shared struggles. If assimilation can encourage someone to refer to herself as a Korean-American - and at the same time allow her to be proud of the American flag, honored to be fighting for African American and Hispanic rights, and thrilled to be a member of an Oktoberfest organizing committee - then a newer version of assimilation will hold the secret to a united America.
Jim (Massachusetts)
I teach in an urban district with many first and second generation Americans. I was struck that this was the first year I taught nationalism asking the opening question “to what nation do you identify yourself with?” that a clear majority of students picked their ancestral homeland over their adopted country. Not just the first generation immigrant students either, but native born multigenerational students too. The nativists of old mistrusted hyphenated Americans, but I do wonder if the fear of being called “white washed” or the abandonment of a civic culture of pluralistic patriotism for an endless critique of our nations (very real) failures by all sides is leading to an erosion of American identity. We increasing elevate the tribe-whether it be ethnic, religious, cultural, sexual, or partisan-over the melting pot at our own peril. As our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us-a nation of tribes is hardly a nation at all.
Global Charm (British Columbia)
@Jim I wish that more people understood this. Ancestral identity and civic identity are different things. Among the tribes, by the way, we should include the Christians, whose loyalty to the U.S. Constitution (and respect for other Americans) is clearly subordinate to their tribal loyalty, especially as of late.
Josh (Massachusetts)
@Jim I mean, how is that different from how many Italian or Irish Americans still identify today?
Robert Henry Eller (Portland, Oregon)
Are Americans actually particularly religious? Or are Americans particularly ideological, and hypocritically so? What I wish Americans would do is to understand and appreciate democracy and the Constitution, would understand what real capitalism actually is, and practice the Golden Rule through tolerance and humility. I don't demand Americans love one another; that would require us to be true practitioners of our professed Abrahamic faiths. And that would be a naive expectation. I would also ask, with even less hope, that White nominal Christians would realize that no one is attacking you or is trying to replace you. Most of us do not define ourselves as competing with you. We have our own identities not defined in conflict with anyone. We don't need to put others down to build ourselves up (You should try it some time.). And in fact, most of the rest of us are in fact trying to be good citizens of our Constitutional democracy. In other words, we in fact support your culture, and, in doing so, reinforce and protect your own culture. We really want you to be Christians. And only wish you would try being Christian. Most of us actually believe in the teachings of Jesus that speak to Mankind's behavior on Earth, whether or not we are also Christians, whether or not we are people of faith, atheists or agnostics. In the important ways, we're mostly all invested in the US being a Christian nation, regardless of our personal beliefs and ritual practices.
Antslovehoney (Medford, MA)
The deeper issue, here, may be that a culture of identities cannot protect itself from becoming a culture of demagoguery with its split between in-group and out-group(s). Pluralities can quickly harden into duality. Brooks’ third category is the sign not of a possible demagoguery, but of its institutionalization. Historically, nothing short of violence could settle the disputes between hardened identities. In short, this article is unconsciously reflecting on the events of January 6th. Brooks, too, was traumatized by the events of that day. And Brooks, too, is deflecting from a true confrontation with its deeper cause: the full-blown resurgence of white supremacy among conservatives.
Lyle (Virginia)
"Americans are a deeply religious people" You insert this thought of yours as if it is a given standard. It is not, and I view this as a major fundamental flaw in the starting point for important social discussions. Religion, primarily, is a vehicle for group "good" with elements of afterlife attached. Religion did not create "good"; "good" and the need for its social embracement led, in large part, to social embracement. Definitions are very important, and shouldn't be summarily assumed. Ask yourself, in today's American society do religion and "good" correlate? I argue no. A more accurate presentation of your sentence would read "Americans once were a deeply religions people." There are bounds around its reach into greater society, but both religion and "good" are being redefined. Please don't add to that unfortunate path.
Cynical US Fan (Jamaica Plain, MA)
Good point, but embracement is not a word. Embrace would suffice.
Blue Moon (Old Pueblo)
"If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a member of a minority group — or several." Reading the NYT on a regular basis makes me feel more like a member of the global community than ever before. And as a member of this community, I feel a strong need to support universal health care for all, the fight against climate change, the battle against the pandemic, the end of America's forever wars, the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction, holding Trump and his GOP accountable for the damage they have done to their nation on Jan. 6, fostering socioeconomic and racial equality, protecting voting rights and preserving a woman's right to control her own body. These are not goals limited to minority communities. These are not goals limited to Americans. These are goals that promote the general welfare of humanity. We are all in this together. Now more than ever, we cannot afford to lose sight of that fundamental truth.
Gowan McAvity (Bedford, NY)
Fortunately, I was able to backpack for a year when I was young. With no particular destination I circumnavigated the globe. A year of wandering. Hostels were cheap, odd jobs plentiful.There were people everywhere that were interested, inviting. People making livings, raising families, with stories to tell, homes to show and food to share. Everywhere. There were also people that cast an evil eye and pushed me aside. I was both obstacle and curiosity, depending on the person. People were people, no matter where I went and if they were open, and I was too, there were so many amazing things to share. Otherwise, I wasn’t seen or was viewed with suspicion by the majority, I was afraid, I hurried with downcast eyes. Perhaps, now that America is a land of minorities, suspicion may give way to interest. No majority presiding. Oppression giving way to celebration. Convivial difference is so much more interesting and fun. Traditional majoritarianism quite dull in contrast. Actual equality before the law and celebration of difference. Sharing all that difference. So much more to savor. These dynamics occur all over. We are all one in this. Enjoy it.
Adam b (Iowa)
David Brooks, I've been watching and listening to you for years, and I have often vehemently disagreed with you (and other times agreed!) But I just wanted to say that this article, and a few of your other recent ones regarding identity/culture war politics, have been very insightful. I know you and I sit on either side of the "line", but today you helped me forget about that line and remember the forest for the trees. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones all the way from Iowa!
Lawyermom (Washington DC)
The fourth way has been that chosen by my husband and me. Our children are more assimilationist than we would like, but they are adults and entitled to make their own choices. In doing so, they are like us: we both came from rather separatist families (from different cultures.) Vive la difference. Happy Thanksgiving.
Randall Perry (Brooklyn)
“There really is a lot of oppression out there” allows David Brooks, in a column that spends the rest of its time dismissing any sense of minority identity of activism as an “attitude”. It must be wonderful to have enough privilege to assume that no one has anything but existential problems that can be addressed by a simple change in attitude.
Jonathan Smoots (Milwaukee, Wi)
@Randall Perry There, you put your finger on it. DB cannot shake his "privilege". It is DEEPLY ingrained.
Person (US)
My parents came to America because they hoped for a home where they would not be defined by the old country’s social rules and class blocks. They brought with them all their perceptions and “lived experiences” and unintended and intended biases. They lived and learned and they still are. They are fiercely independent and they try to see the person inside every learned mask of cultural identity. Most of all, they know by experience that this is a very big world, and that there’s billions of individuals in this world. They don’t put up with people who try to lump them into groups.
M. (Indianapolis)
Bravo, David Brooks. I couldn't agree more. As an Irish-Jewish American, I am trying to raise my kids to celebrate their ethnicity (we wear green on St. Patrick's Day and light the menorah at Hanukkah), while at the same time, celebrating everyone else in this country, and respecting and admiring all that we can in other cultures that share this national space with us. At the end of your essay, I was reminded of Whitman, a voice I know you love as well. His words speak to your desire for dynamism achieved when we integrate without losing ourselves: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Jim (Pennsylvania)
Diversity is wonderful, but we seem to ignore that we need SOME type of common bonds. Other than physical proximity, there seems to be little else shared right now that truly defines us all as "Americans." For me, this is most evident in the college music courses I teach. Over my many years doing so, I have witnessed less and less music that is known by all in my classes, to the point where the only songs I can assume that will be universally known are "Happy Birthday", "Star Spangled Banner", and perhaps "Jingle Bells."
crick (WV)
I’ve long lived in what has become Trump country, rural eastern WV. I’m not native. A large majority of people here don’t have - and have never had - much understanding of, interest in, admiration for, sympathy for, curiosity about, or concern for the rest of the country, the rest of the world, and the great variety of peoples and cultures. The posture is historic, way preceding today’s race and class grievance outlook, but certainly providing fertile ground for those two.
Johann (NY)
David, Thanks for sharing this story. What do we call assimilation of nearly a century ago when we had the ethnic communities that my grandparents and parents lived in? Today in all the places I live I rarely see such monolithic communities, albeit I haven’t lived in a major metropolitan area. Has there been less animosity between groups?
Stephanie Lee Jackson (Philadelphia)
Living creatively, among diverse groups with diverse backgrounds, is only possible when you LISTEN to those people, with humility and an open mind. When they tell you their experiences of being yelled at, discriminated against, bullied and harassed by those in positions of power, it's crucial that you take them seriously. Otherwise you're living in a fantasy world, blind to how you're stepping on the people you think are your friends. Implying an equivalency of status, leverage, social and economic power among diverse groups, as you do in this article, is disingenuous and undermines your thesis. Yes, integration without assimilation is the only sustainable way forward. Please back up this lofty ideal by acknowledging the ways in which power hierarchies harm people-- unequally and unequivocally.
MichaelS DMV (Arlington, VA)
The key phrase for me: "transmit the richness of your own cultures while seeking the peace and prosperity of the city to which you have been transported." I like sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.
Robert Henry Eller (Portland, Oregon)
I don't value diversity. I want every American to practice the Golden Rule. If we all practiced the Golden Rule, all of our differences would disappear, at least as excuses for hate and fear.
Cynthia (Chicago)
I think Solzhenitsyn would approve. People who insist on the validity of group identity haven't "reckoned" with their own capacity for evil, which lives in each human heart.
CCC (Reston, Virginia)
Accepting that “the line between good and evil draws through every person” is a lazy posture and drawing. No one is that simplistic and while every single person is flawed and carries baggage, not “holding people to account” (perhaps an even lazier line) gives us the society we have.
Rick (Cedar Hill, TX)
I used to work with people from all over the world, from all over Asia, Canada, Russia, and the middle east. I found most don't bite. Until we conquer our fears we, as a species, are stuck in this endless loop of self destruction.
Ernie Cohen (Philadelphia)
To quote Gandhi (the movie), the only devils running around are those in our own hearts, and that is where all of our battles should be fought.
JL (Boston)
Case in point: most minorities who come to America tried to escape tyranny, classism, racism, caste, violence, entrenched poverty - in their own country and culture. So, the lines of division run through people's hearts no matter where they are from. It just so happens that those in power here in America are white (but not all white people, not even most whites, share in that power and wealth). And yes, the few powerful whites do want to keep it that way. But before all minorities join the combat against all "whites", it helps to remember the divisions in our own hearts, cultures, countries - and set the aim against the hoarding of power and wealth anywhere, and not lump all white people together - both the powerful and the duped together.
AKJersey (New Jersey)
Trump is the political heir of George Wallace. Wallace was a populist Southern Democrat, who won 5 states as an independent candidate for President in 1968, and also won the Michigan Democratic Presidential primary in 1972. His appeal was openly racist, anti-intellectual, and anti-urban. The GOP has been courting Wallace’s voters for decades, but under Trump they have taken over the GOP. President Biden can try to unite our multi-ethnic America. But Trump and the GOP keep inciting division. For democracy to have a future, Republicans need to rid their party of the toxic racism of Trump and Wallace.
writeon1 (Iowa)
Often struggle is most violent, not between oppressed and oppressor, but between subgroups of the oppressed who have been encouraged to turn against each other. The most dramatic example in our history was the success of slave owners and their associates in turning poor and working-class white against black, to the extent that poor whites would fight to the death for a system that oppressed them, too. That this form of conflict continues is not an accident. It continues to be actively encouraged.
JL (Boston)
@writeon1 You are so right about this. The truly powerful, through think tanks and sponsored television hosts, put up smoke-screens like abortion, gun rights, CRT - just to enrage us against one another (the poor/working-class whites against the poor everyone else). Meanwhile, they enjoy the "step-up" rule in eliminating capital gains for billions of dollars of estates, paying nothing on their wealth (while the rest of Americans pay dutifully their property tax year after year). Why we fall for this - all of us who are angry daily at the other side - is the sad story of being duped.
John M (Oakland, CA)
To summarize David Brooks: some people want to carry guns and shoot anyone they disagree with, and some people object to being shot with impunity- so both sides! There’s a distinct difference between people who want to use their power to crush their opponents, and those pushing back against oppression. Perhaps I missed the section in Mr Brooks column mentioning this.
A. (NJ)
@John M You have the perspicacity to write the first sentence of your second paragraph, but the in-group political blinders not to recognize how that plays out in the public sphere today - in fact on both sides. It's sadly the state of affairs that one 'half' views themselves as the Lord's anointed, free of blame, and the other half vote Republican.
WOID (NYC)
@John M "There are good people on both sides."
Saxton16 (New Jersey)
David, Excellent column. I agree completely. We must try to connect and understand different points of view. We don’t have to agree, but we must respect even when a position may seem complete out of touch or illogical. We must navigate such turbulence to get to a point of reason and understanding. This is not cowardice but courage to have the strength to stay steady in such challenging times. Enjoy your holiday. And thank you.
John Millsap (San Bernadino County)
Integration without assimilation is what my family sees as America. We have Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Jews, Hundu's, Muslims, Unitarians, Gays and Straight's. The richness of all these cultures is like an amazing banquet. The fact that all are reasonably middle class in income and location helps of course. None are poor nor incredibly rich. Most are well educated but that's because education is available and drives the development of aspirations. Aspiration is what brought all our ancestors to this country.
Armadillo (Virginia)
@John Millsap That is what has changed over the last 40+ years, thanks to rightwing policies. I'm sorry but there is no longer a strong majority middle class. I'd say 2/3 to 3/4 of us live paycheck to paycheck, with no hope of owning a home, having retirement or the other pieces of the American Dream. I'm one of those with a college degree (in science mind you). I am lucky I can get some family help, most cannot. A huge portion of this nation can no longer even meet basic bills. Our public schools have been underfunded for those same 40 years, so not sure where "well-educated" is coming from either. This is what has caused the division in this nation - a right that lies and claims people on the left are just lazy if they have no money. The right lies about so much tax money being spent to support these supposed lazy people. It is pathetic that so many working class whites buy into these lies. Until more rural whites realize they are being lied to, we are doomed. And I have little hope of that happening.
Al (Ohio)
The 4 examples are less hard and fast mind sets but fluctuating reactions determined by the level of dehumanization or subjugation that is experienced at any giving time. Integration with come with democracy.
Global Charm (British Columbia)
A solid contribution from Mr. Brooks, but once again missing a key point: most of us are workers, no matter what our skin colors, systems of belief, gender expressions, or anything else might be. Most of us workers have dependents, and most of us pay taxes, partly for things we use in common (like streets and parks), but also to equalize people’s opportunites and insure them against sickness and unemployment. Time and chance happeneth to us all. It’s a mistake to describe the January 6th insurgents and their fellow rioters elsewhere in America as “working class”. Describe them accurately as the thieves and vandals that they are.
Armadillo (Virginia)
@Global Charm Not many working class people could afford to take several days off of work to participate.
Someone is Beautiful (USA)
@Global Charm — Please don’t sugar coat what happened in D. C. earlier this year. The people who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021 are insurrectionists, full stop. SiB
Frank Mulvaney (Westfield NJ)
As an Irish-American and serious jazz music fan. my greatest wish for my country is that it be as socially liberal as our jazz music sub-culture which transcends race and ethnicity.
jz (CA)
Integration without assimilation is at best a short-term solution that will likely prove untenable in the real world. The problem isn’t just an endemic tribalism with its roots in our need to identify with one or more groups and to gain security and meaning from those groups. The problem is that in order to maintain this tribal identity we not only cherish our group, we also claim its members are superior to members of other groups. It is this false sense of superiority that then is used to promote prejudice and even violence against other groups. I think we need integration and assimilation, a true melting pot where a new culture is born that incorporates the best of multiple sources and allows for the original dividing lines to melt away. The alternative is a Darwinian future where competition rather than cooperation rules and the constant battle to determine who survives and prospers will continue to define the haves and have-nots.
Madeleine (MI)
David, ‘them’ is us. We’ve always had demographic richness, even when it was suppressed through criminalization, coercion, and god-bothering. Far from being some process of the drawn-from-thin-air pseudo theory of ‘Wokeness’, much of the ferment you see is a growing rejection of the longstanding cultural hegemony of Religion, and redress for its ill-gotten gains. That is a good thing, and nothing to be afraid of. Wade Davis, Anthropologist, has a succinct way of looking at this phenomena: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Isn’t this the epitome of what America is? So let’s put aside all this culture war caterwauling and fear-mongering. We are no one’s ‘guests’; we share in the ownership of this house. Our names on the deed, too. So let's start from there.
mancuroc (rochester)
"White evangelical Protestants are down to about 15 percent of the country." Maybe. But even as their numbers dwindle, they and those who represent them (or rather, pretend to represent them) have increasing power in this country. Our increasingly skewed system of representation, voting and (imminently) vote-counting will see to it that the minority rules for the foreseeable future. 17:10 EST, 11/24
PE (Seattle)
"I’d add that right-wing populism is organized around the sacralization of the white working class and the belief that left-wing minority groups have now become the dominant oppressive majority." Wokeism and Trumpism should not be mentioned as opposite equals on a spectrum. This is a gross false equivalence. And using the "us vs. them" as rationale to make this comparison is specious logic. Why? Because the core values held by wokeism aims for justice and inclusion, while the core values held by Trumpism aims for a1950s-like status quo rotten with injustice and bubbling with exclusion. There is no comparison between these two ideologies. I see many right leaning columnists in the Times (Douthat, Stephens) try to slip this false equivalence through, and it stains the article because the foundation it's built on is fake and flimsy on even the most basic inspection.
Cynthia (Chicago)
@PE Brooks's commentary is appealing to the growing number of people - like me - who see more similarity than difference between the Woke and the Trump-besotted. Both follow an illogical, half-baked ideology; both see themselves on the 'right side' of history; both see only corruption and poisonously warped values in the "other"; both insist on the infallible truth of their positions.
PE (Seattle)
@Cynthia The roots of the Woke ideology stem from slavery, Jim Crow, corrupt criminal justice system and systemic abuse across all aspects of the economy -- from healthcare to education to home ownership. The roots of Trumpism stem from what exactly? Unemployed white people? Paranoia about illegal immigration? Fear of gun control? Fear of Transgender rights? Fear of a woman's right to reproductive healthcare choice? When looking at the core grievances between the two they are not at all similar. Moreover, it's irresponsible for influential pundits in op-eds to imply they are the same in dysfunction.
B. Rothman (NYC)
@PE Yup. They too do not see the boulder in their own eye and the flaws in their arguments. They are truly bad thinkers: rarely if ever defining their terms and often swinging from the heels in their opinions.
Z (US)
It is true that the line between good and evil run through human hearts, but the line between oppressor and oppressed runs between groups because oppression is fundamentally a group activity. No man by himself has the power to be an oppressor. Even the worst dictators need legions of cronies and supporters to do their bidding. Take the example of slavery. Surely, there were good masters and evil masters, and good slaves and evil slaves. Yet, it is accurate to say that masters as a group were the oppressor, and slaves as a group were the oppressed. Ending the institution of slavery required ending the power of masters as a group, not trying to determine whether each one was individually morally good or bad.
Ziggy (NY)
"Happy Thanksgiving Weekend" Thinking how it's turned out for that prototypical oppressed American minority, Native Americans. Now, as then, it's a struggle for power and domination, no more, no less. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, indeed.
SMB (Savannah)
There are actual creative people out there making and imagining and creating art. They have always been a minority, rarely wealthy, often without acknowledgement in their own lives. But they create beauty or lasting memories or experiences others appreciate. Neither they nor the rest of us deserve convoluted false definitions of wokeness as a new religion. Keep it simple. Some people worship the golden (or orange) calf. Others practice the golden rule. Some hunt gold at the end of rainbows. Some have hearts of gold. If you’re lucky, you know someone like that.
gkrause (British Columbia)
Beethoven stands out as an example. Recognized for his genius, his welfare was still ignored and he died in poverty. Our world celebrates celebrity, too often of the self-ordained whose real contributions range from not much more than a vacuous recitation of someone else's creativity to forceful expropriation of credit due to someone else for their own glorification. There are true geniuses among us, but even today they are still often overlooked and ignored if not actively skewered because they tend also towards nonconformity, something else often seen as deserving isolation/marginalization.
Socrates (Downtown Verona, NJ)
I'm an "E pluribus unum" kind of a guy. The phrase originates from the concept that from the original Thirteen Colonies emerged a new single nation. Pluralism is America's middle name. Pluralism is a value. Some share that value...and some do not. When you don't subscribe to the basic American value of pluralism, well then, frankly, how much of an American are you ? This nation is nothing but a group of immigrants.... one, two, three, four or ten generations removed. While it's true that the country needs to do a much better job of regulating our current immigration, immigration is who we are and what has made the nation great. Which brings us back to the anti-pluralists, those who seem to want white male patriarchal Christian supremacy. That's not pluralism....that's one-dimensional ethnic authoritarianism where democracy - another fundamental American value - is systematically rejected because its anti-pluralistic streak.....to put it nicely. This land was Native American land before Europeans showed up and took it. The history of this nation is filled with the stories of (immigrant) slaves who built the US Capitol and the White House. Lots of Irishmen helped build the Erie Canal Italian immigrants performed menial jobs in America 100 years ago. Both the Irish and the Italians were discriminated against, as were many others. Pluralism is the American way...and those who don't like it haven't learned a thing about this country, its history or its culture.
mijosc (Brooklyn)
@Socrates: Yes, we would do well to acknowledge our debt to the founding fathers' ideology. As Washington wrote: "While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
Robert Henry Eller (Portland, Oregon)
@Socrates but now, not a few Italians, Irish, Hispanics, and other previously discriminated-against "minorities," have decided they're White. And have been strategically accepted as White by Anglo-Saxon Protestants. But they have conveniently short memories, of what it was like to "not be White."
Martin (Maine)
@Socrates Nobody asked me how I felt about "pluralism" It was never put to a vote. So excuse me if I opt out.
Kathy Lollock (Santa Rosa, CA)
In but a few words, David has stated the first step in treating our bigotry and racism: "Once you accept the truth that the line between good and evil runs through every heart.." I believe it was Socrates who said to "know thyself." A lot easier said than done, this onus of responsibility to look in the mirror and admit that our souls are flawed. My Southern Italian grandparents on both sides immigrated to the US during the turn of the 20th century. And although this may be hard to envision, the fact remained that these dark eyed, dark haired, olive complexioned men and women were looked down upon as being dirty and dumb. But they like so many of their culture were strong and determined to both integrate and assimilate. And they succeeded. Yet, they never relinquished their passion, that belief in "la dolce vita," and their strong Catholic faith. It worked for them, their children, their grandchildren. I am thankful that from them I learned the need for us to accept all peoples no matter their religion, race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. What a gift these folks gave our very large extended family. With that I say, Happy Thanksgiving, David, and my Times' "pen pal friends."
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
@Kathy Lollock I’m sitting on the back patio at my Mothers house in Florida. Short sleeves, bare feet, in late November. Life IS good. Best Wishes, friend.
Michele (Vermont)
@Kathy Lollock Happy Thanksgiving Kathy - I always enjoy your comments , coming from the left coast as you are!
David Hart (Memphis, TN)
@Kathy Lollock Not to take away from this column, but "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being" is a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago." That quote is a commonplace among conservative intellectuals like Brooks, but he probably should have given it a clear attribution here.
mancuroc (rochester)
"The Age of the Creative Minority" I don't think columnists usually write their own headlines, so I hope David caught the irony of this one. The most creative minority is the Republican Pary which is busy rewriting election rules to guarantee that it can keep power even as its numbers shrink. 17:35 EST, 11/24
Lourdes (Brooklyn)
This piece reflects the white privilege and white lens of the person who wrote it. BIPOC people don't get to choose how they are viewed or treated in America. Early generations of Mexican Americans forbade their children from speaking Spanish so they would not have to deal with American aggression, violence and bigotry. They had no choice but to "assimilate" though that only worked for White Mexican Americans, not Chicanos/cholos them from concentration camps. And indeed there is a line that separates the oppressor from the oppressed, and that line is racial. Simply put white power dominates because of a belief in white supremacy thereby granting white Americans white privilege which is power. It's not rocket science.
Martin (Maine)
@Lourdes Up until very recently, this was always an overwhelmingly White country with a significant black minority, concentrated in the South and a handful of large cities. Recent decades have shown that there is a seemingly deliberate effort under way to drastically alter the fundamental makeup of the country. Unsurprisingly, this is leading/will lead to the dis-integration of the country as we know it. Most wealthy/powerful people in this country are White. Most White people are not wealthy or powerful. I wish the wokies could wrap their heads around this simple concept. Till then, keep your powder dry everyone. When the Third World moves here en masse, we become the Third World.
Jonathan Smoots (Milwaukee, Wi)
@Martin You have your fearful eye on the wrong minority---Latinos have twice the population---fear and hate THEM---and be part of the problem, not the solution.
JND (Abilene, Texas)
Libertarian! Who knew I was a member of a minority group?
JP (New Orleans)
Minorities know America. They have to. America does not know itself. The "embracing and recognizing" goes both ways.
C. Neville (Portland, OR)
Oh Man, David! Are you going to get raked over the coals for this one! Enjoy! Meanwhile a question for the Combat group. How would your Winning be obtained? Burn, Baby, Burn? What would your Winning look like, swapping the Opressor-Opressed roles? Just deserts? Welcome to Middle Eastern politics. I spent my working life in Silicon Valley, not the Garden of Eden, but close to the fourth option. Everyone was too busy to care about where the engineers came from. I was usually the only native born white male in the group. I was surrounded by the smartest people from around the world and I loved it. My life was so much more richer for it. Now retired it still feels funny when in a room of white people. Pick the fourth option.
DMC (Chico, CA)
"the British political scientist Matthew Goodwin defined wokeness as a belief system organized around 'the sacralization of racial, gender and sexual minorities.'" The Times needs an editing window for comments. One stray tap on the tablet, and it's submitted without recourse. What I intended to add was how wrong it is to characterize political kinship as religious belief, even by analogy. I am so sick of "woke" being flung carelessly about as an epithet, as if it were a core tenet of a progressive worldview, rather than a conscious awareness of previously denied injustices. I'm close to ending my Bill Maher habit over his obsession with the term. For every silly excess like the San Francisco school board considering removing past presidents' names from schools, there are countless instances of unadmitted and unaddressed, very real, injustices. But ignoring or denying them doesn't draw nearly the exasperated ire. It's a shorthand for a heightened awareness and a commensurate commitment to correctives, not a quasi-religion.
Jeff (Kelowna)
It's the Canadian Way. Works for me!
DMC (Chico, CA)
"the British political scientist Matthew Goodwin defined wokeness as a belief system organized around 'the sacralization of racial, gender and sexual minorities.'"
diderot (portland or)
Many many years ago the great American folksinger sang one of his great ballads that early on declaims"It takes a worried man to sing a worried song..."I wouldn't change word except for the last line of the refrain that declaims:"I'm worried now but I won't be worried long."
James B (Portland)
Integration AND assimilation is the only way forward. Many immigrant peoples from around the world have come to North America seeking opportunity or escaping persecution and have integrated and assimilated just fine in many ways. One group of people, however, was snatched from from their land unwilling and held in slavery for hundreds of years. These people are as a group having the most challenges internally, and receive the most resistance from a portion of white immigrants. Less reported is most other immigrant peoples are not enamored being categorized with this group either. To clarify, Protestant denominations are Christian. Jeremiah was a Hebrew prophet, not a Christian prophet.
Lourdes (Brooklyn)
@James B You need to read about American history. There is so much that is wrong about this statement, like the complete amnesia about first nations people and the fact that black americans are not a monolith.
FunkyIrishman (member of the Liberal majority)
I think we are living in the growing age of Secularism. That is also conflicting with the rapid decent of white privilege, and which is why we are going through such backlash to it. Combine this with the above, and people are losing it. They can't handle that other people with different points of view, beliefs, looks, habits, cultures and so on might be equal to them. (or even better members of society, more giving and so on) We still live in an era of fictional lines on maps created by the force of victors, but soon we are going to have to move beyond that if we are going to even have a chance to save ourselves. (considering climate change and over population) For now, we are living in tumultuous times of upheaval.
M Ford (USA)
@FunkyIrishman The existence of "white privilege" is a far left hoax. This is common knowledge to people who are educated in critical white grievance theory. One of the main postulates is that the US will experience an average the mirrors the average of how the individual races live in their countries. For a white person living in the world, it is not a privilege to live in the US. White immigration from Europe has plummeted to next to nothing. The US is not an upgrade for a majority of the white people in the world. White people living in the US know that most white people in the world have universal healthcare, day care, preschool, paid leave and strong social benefits. They know that other white people don't have the problems with crime and guns that we do here. This is one of the biggest failures in the Democrats' message. They could pass a $6 trillion social spending bill if they told white people here they wanted to help them to live like the rest of the white people do in the world. This would increase the white birth rates and white immigration rates into our country, another key selling point. But, no, we get told we don't have it as bad, that going backwards is some kind of a "privilege."
GRW (Melbourne, Australia)
@FunkyIrishman For the socio-economically and neuro-psychologically lucky and privileged the US is an amazing country. Problem is, it's also a brutal and cruel place, with a far too high propensity for rendering Americans as non-members of that fortunate group from birth and through life. It needs to be far more social democratic. That would temper the anger and resentment many Americans feel and significantly reduce the number of them that become broken and bitter people in the first place. I'm also of the opinion that nations (and nationalism) need not be any more problematic than local and regional areas (and identification with them) and - of whatever size - nations are simply necessary for the purposes of government, which is an absolute necessity in itself. Perhaps one day there will be a global government, but if that becomes the case, there will surely still be regional and local administrations - possibly encompassing former nations - attending to the specific needs of the areas they are responsible for. The alternative is anarchy.
Dejah (Williamsburg, VA)
@M Ford I tend to agree that the vast majority of white people in the US are struggling pretty hard. But I am going to disagree: We're half Italian. I'm very fair skinned. My late brother was swarthy, brown skinned, wild, frizzy, black hair. He looked greasy. In my late teens, my brother started to have problems with the police. He was pulled a couple times a week. Once he was arrested for having his prescription for Rytalin in the car. He was taking the medication for ADD, and of course popped positive on an (illegal) drug test. It cost my parents $6000 (in 2012 money) to get the charges dropped, as he'd done nothing wrong. A year later, he was rear-ended in a car accident, totaling his car. The cops treated him like a criminal, threatening him with arrest, even though he was not at fault for the accident. That was part of the NJ State Trooper Profiling Scandal. Later in his life, he was forcibly committed to a mental institution after an episode of suicidal ideation--not because he was suicidal. A judge decided he was "delusional." Bro said he had worked for NASA, Capital One, and the Federal Reserve, and he had a girlfriend in Australia--every single word of which *was 100% true.* My brother was brilliant. He was not released until a social worker took pity on him, and permitted him to use his cell phone to call my mother who confirmed his history. The color of his skin was key to how authority saw him. And he was white.
Orion Clemens (CS)
We can talk all day about what group is, or isn't, an oppressed minority. But, in the vernacular, "sayin' doesn't make it so". If white Christians in this country were an oppressed minority, we'd see skyrocketing hate crimes against them. They'd be afraid to walk down the streets alone. In fact, the opposite is true. White nationalists commit the vast majority of hate crimes in this country. And I know very few white Americans who have the slightest concern about walking down the street, driving across town, or being accosted in a grocery store by bullies telling them "to go back to their own countries". Those of us who aren't white Americans? We deal with these situations throughout our lives. I know. I'm a 66 year old woman of Middle Eastern ancestry, born in Chicago, and I still hear ugly slurs from whites telling me that "I don't belong here". So Mr. Brooks, who, I understand, is a white Christian, may wax poetic all he wants about what makes someone a minority, or what it means to be a minority. He is in a very comfortable position to do so. I doubt he'll ever be pulled over by the police for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I doubt he's ever heard anyone scream at him that "he doesn't belong here". And I am sick and tired of white Americans telling me what I should believe when the vast majority of them do not have the slightest notion what I and my family go through just to try to live peaceably, go to work, and raise our children.
STM (San Francisco, CA)
@Orion Clemens Got any solutions? Apart from the anger? (A lot of which seems justified, to be fair to you). The problem is EVERYONE is marinating in anger these days. And if we simply stop there, then we prove David Brooks's point that we are all currently following the path of conflict, with every group trying to win over every other group. If that's all we've got, then it's unclear how long we'll be able to keep up this experiment.
SEAMUS (USA)
@Orion Clemens You better warn the thousands at the Southern border: America is really a God-forsaken hell-hole.
mijosc (Brooklyn)
@Orion Clemens I think it's pretty clear that Mr. Brooks is of Jewish ancestry.
Meridita (Walnut Creek)
According to my 23 and me account I am 97.9 Anglo Saxon Celt with a higher than common Neanderthal. But I have lived my entire 80 years in large urban centers like sf Bay Area,New York city metro, Los Angeles metro so I am definitely in your 4th category of celebrating the growing diversity of our country. When I was young I really wanted to travel to all the exotic places that I read about and experience cultural diversity. Then the immigration laws changed & now people from all over now are living here! So I have been lucky enough to get to know & work with people from all over the world. I worked in the garment industry and that was a community that was fully integrated early. Lucky me! I hope more & more people get to know & love their new neighbors soon.
Andy (USA)
@Meridita This will seem extremely pedantic, but 'Anglo-Saxon' and 'Celt' are separate populations, with wars, oppression - that is to say history. They come from distinct sources and have different cultures. If you were to walk into some bars in Scotland or Wales and call the patrons 'Anglo-Saxons', you would probably start a fight. If you were to do it in parts of Ireland, I refuse to even contemplate the consequences.
theox (nj)
@Meridita In my 90 years on earth, I have travelled to 97 countries, have lived a good number, speak a reasonable number of languages, and have poorly attempted others. I can state on reflection, that apart from some horrendous governments, all people that I have met, from Picilachta.Peru to X'ian,China are basically more polite, easier to approach, more intelligent, and more openhearted than Americans. That pains me to say, especially as an American who loved his country, served in it's military, worked for a Marshall Plan agency, and has taught college for the past 39 years. Ever since RR, I have noticed a continual deterioration in our personal interactions, communal asperations religious and political attitudes, and misplaced nationalism. At first it was a slow ooze, just noticeable, but over time. and especially in recent times, I have not recognized my country! What is worse I see no mechanism for amelioration !I have given my best advise to my family...Flee!
Carol Glaser (Madison, Wisconsin)
Amen! To move forward through these dangerous times, we need to turn away from blaming the “other,” appreciate different perspectives, and work toward common goals.
That's What She Said (The West)
I have Confederacy and Mexico City in my background. I have brothers who look like friends and not brothers. You take the best from all cultures with a tweak of humor. Happy Thanksgiving--great column.
Mark Baer (Pasadena, CA)
@That's What She Said What you have described sounds like blending everything together, which sounds more like the elimination of diversity to me. That is how Argentina tried to deal with its racial issues -- laws were in place which only allowed Black people to marry non-black people. Why? To eliminate diversity. What you described is not consistent with Brook's point. What you described is about blending, which isn't integration without assimilation.
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