Update to Identity, Race, and Assimilation

In March 2019, I wrote an article regarding My Journey in Understanding Race (as it related to my own #identity). As we approach July 4th and face the continuing fight for #equity particularly as it relates to #race and class, I revisited the article to examine what I had said, or not said.


To rectify that I wanted to put out this addendum.


I make a specific comment in the March 2019 article regarding being "more than just one of the guys at the office." I don't explain that in the original article and want to make a very explicit point here, because I'll relay what happened and what that alludes to in a minute. #Assimilation is not #inclusion. Demanding that others accommodate to what makes you comfortable and then heralding them for doing that is not inclusive, it forces them to choose from their identities, leads to group think, and maintains the status quo.


We had a longish term visitor to the office in my first post. When visiting it can be challenging to have enough to do - as you live in a hotel and often have limited control over getting out and about. To support our visitors we tried to give generously of our time and space. However, one night this visitor asked what I was doing that evening and if we could go somewhere. Knowing that I was running a little low on feeling whole and Indian, I declined explaining that I was having an Indian night and eating Indian food, listening to movies/songs in Hindi and sitting around in Indian clothes. These are only the trappings of and eventually I found people who were Indian that I could have meaningful conversations with. But, the response I received was "But you aren't even that Indian."



Whether said in jest or not, I was aghast. I have always been "too authentic" - another euphemism for not assimilating and going with the status quo. So, I spoke my mind, I noted that just because I blended in when I was at work, with all the other guys, didn't mean that I was one. I have other facets of my identity and while work certainly intended to use what it understood - namely language skills - it did not accommodate nor create any space for the other parts of my whole identity, so I had to establish boundaries to create my own space for them.


In many ways my "honesty" has allowed me to speak up and against injustice that I see - though I have not always cast it in the light of race. I would also like to mention that as I've grown in compassion - I realize that so much misery is borne of ignorance, and that the only response to that can be greater compassion that the person find their way out of their misery, their insecurity, etc.


As I recently mentioned in an email, in response to the continuing lack of social justice and equity, my actual initial gut reaction is we should return to small groups with limited external interaction and farm. If we are too busy trying to survive we won't find space to hate, but natural resource competition certainly led to plenty of death as well.


So, instead, starting this month I'm giving a monthly, recurring donation to civil rights and humanitarian organizations working to foster #inclusivity and ensure basic human rights protections worldwide. I have also chosen to make a one-time donation to a Congressional candidate - a political act I have not taken in many years, due to a variety of reasons. This is marginal and minimal in relation to that which others are doing, but like NPR says during its fundraising weeks, every little bit helps. I have also talked to a lot of non-profit leaders who discuss recurring donations as a bloodline - it's critical to supporting operations, loans, and continuity. So, this is my small contribution to support these activities.


I don't put any of this out as self-congratulatory nor to suggest others do the same. We all have to come to our own conclusions regarding what actions align with our own values and how we live by those. There are myriad of ways to do that - as I find myself currently time constrained but resource rich, this is the best way for me to participate at this moment. I will continue to speak up and be heard and potentially create discomfort for those around me; this is not to provoke but to dialogue. I will also continue to be compassionate and recognize that these are impersonal changing phenomenon that are strongly attached to individual experiences and cannot be generalized nor does attacking them work.


All change and transition feels messy, just like returning to a familiar place after time away. That does not make it unhealthy, rather like any growth sometimes it involves trying out a few different ways before we find a common path forward. While these are indeed challenging times as we reflect on our past actions, our potential future way forward, and what the words we may throw around mean, it is also an opportunity for growth and maturity.


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