My American Identity

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How we can put our identities on a better foundation


Chapter 13

Defining our Identities


a definition of racism

Let me offer a definition of racism: A racist is someone who considers his racial identity more important than his identity as a member of the human race. If a person belonging to one of the three principal racial groups - whites (Europeans), blacks (Africans), or yellow-skinned people (east Asians) - sees himself primarily as a member of that group rather than as someone belonging to humanity, he is a racist.

I would say that this concept also applies to ethnic groups. If, for instance, an ethnic Jew, an Anglo-Saxon, a German, Pakistani, Filipino, Chinese, Norwegian, Iranian, Italian, Irish, Greek, or Arab identifies primarily with that ethnicity, he is also a racist. “Race” has to do with birth into a tribe, a collection of tribes, or a people, who came from the same place. It is a birth-determined characteristic.

Notice that this definition has nothing to do with power or perceived power. It has nothing to do with hatred exhibited toward other groups. Racism is simply a matter of identity. It is identification of oneself with a narrower segment of humanity rather than with humanity itself. Refusal to identify with humanity may also, however, carry with it the notion of self-perceived superiority to other groups. Why otherwise would one refuse to think of oneself as mainly human? Is it because other people are considered subhuman? Does your type of person have to be at the top?

There are other kinds of chauvinism that have nothing to do with race. For example, Marxist class consciousness creates an identity among working people that pits them against people in the business class. We almost fought a world war over that type of identity. Class struggle, whether initiated by labor unions or by Wall Street investors, divides people by occupational group. It can also be destructive.

Another type of chauvinism is religious. If one considers being a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or member of another religious group more important than belonging to humanity, one exhibits another kind of narrow-mindedness. In this case, it is chosen rather than acquired at birth. But that does not make religious bigotry any less dangerous or intractable. Some religions aim at world domination and, in the process, cause great harm. The Christians crusades to recapture Jerusalem were highly damaging as are the current Muslim jihadist campaigns. Both involved or involve hatred directed against other people and disregard of our common humanity.

The state religion of patriotism is another way to divide people. If I am proud to be an American but not proud to be a citizen of the world, I then put my nation above humanity. America may be multiracial, but it is not immune from exhibiting disparaging opinions of other people. Do we want to be thrown into the same pot with those billions of Chinese, Indians, Africans, or Latin Americans? Aren’t we more “special” than that? Yes, we have had a run of good fortune, but our own fate as Americans (citizens of the United States) is ultimately bound to the fate of humanity.

Let’s widen our sense of identity also to our fellow creatures on earth and to the earth itself. Rejecting dualistic or sectarian consciousness, let’s embrace the Hindu principle that the universe is one. Why not be kind to animals and let plant life flourish? Why not feel a kinship with all sentient beings? Now is the time when, for our own sake as well as that of others in this world, we must restrain our selfish use of natural resources and bring the earth’s living ecology back into balance.

some identifying categories

Enough said of racism. Our primary identity is membership in the human race. There are, however, other lesser identities. We each belong to particular groups that define us in contrast with other people. There is nothing wrong with pursuing those separate identities so long as we respect the right of others to do the same.

How do I identify myself? I have, first, a name. This does not denote membership in a group. A name is an individual identifier. It is a key to which other information may be added in a personal record. In my case, I am William (“Bill”) McGaughey. My full name is William Howard Taft McGaughey, Jr. I was named after my father who, in turn, was named after the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft. My name therefore says less about me than it does about decisions made by my father and mother and by my paternal grandparents when in 1912 they named their new-born child. One of the decision makers, one would guess, might have been a Republican.

Other identifying features would include the kinds of information that one might put on an employment form. Let me propose a generic scheme of identity. In the first section, I’ll include some personal information that everyone would know about himself immediately. The second section would include identifying information that may be subject to personal interpretation, gradation, or change.

The first section would include these categories: (1) age, (2) gender, (3) race/ethnicity, (4) primary language spoken, (5) place of residence, (6) nationality, (7) marital status, (8) number of children, (9) level of education, and (10) present occupation.

The second section would include these categories: (1) state of health, (2) annual income, (3) religious affiliation, (4) sexual orientation, (5) weight and height, (6) IQ (intelligence quotient) level, (7) immigrant or citizenship status, (8) criminal record, (9) political-party affiliation, (10) personal interests and hobbies, (11) right- or left-handedness, and (12) zodiac sign.

These categories are arranged roughly in descending order of importance. For a person at either extremity of life - very young or very old - age would be the critical element in identity; this would matter less in the middle years. Gender is important in certain roles. Whether one is male or female determines child-bearing capacity and therefore implies a certain relationship to others within a family. It determines which rest room to use in a public place. Race and ethnicity have identified certain neighborhoods in big cities and political voting blocs. The language that one speaks characterizes the group of people with whom one regularly communicates and therefore builds communities. And so it would go down the line.

This is the type of information that can easily be assembled in computer records. If others gave similar information, the computer could quickly compile the names of people in a category and create instant lists of “communities”. Truthfully, however, this is not how I think of myself. I am not so interested in group identities based on age, gender, and the other categories. Even if that is what I am, I approach the question of identity in another way.

our place in a story

We are, instead, what we do. Our identities are determined by our place in a story. We are characters in our own life story. That is who we are primarily. But what stories are we talking about?

The German poet and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once said: "All of us seek answers to three big questions in life: What is the story of all mankind? What is the story of my time? And what story is mine alone?" The key to personal identity is found in answering those three questions.

In truth, our identities are found on several different levels within humanity. We are, first, part of a world community of human beings. We share in humanity’s common experience. Second, we belong to smaller communities in our own place and time. We have an active relationship to what is going on around us now. Third, we are individuals with our own life stories. We find our own meanings in life and try to interpret and fulfill life’s purpose in those terms.

History is a discipline of story telling. World history would be the story of mankind. (There is also a type of history called “big history” that tells the story of the universe.) In regard to the second type of history, there are unfolding events involving particular communities, organizations, personalities, and so forth that have taken place during our life time or within recent memory. Their stories have a place in world history and can be interpreted in the light of larger trends. Finally, there is a person’s own story narrating significant events that happened in his life. History at the personal level might be an autobiography or a collection of written materials concerning oneself, together with a written or unwritten understanding of how one’s life has developed.

If history is a set of stories, stories are a telling of events, often in chronological sequence, that unfold in a stream of consciousness associated with the narrator. Stories bring a conscious continuity to those events. They also help to explain how a certain situation came to be. There is a threads of events connecting the situation at the beginning of the story with the situation at the end. At the level of world history, the story may explain how we arrived at the present state of society from a world much different in the past. Which events helped to shape our present world? In an autobiography, we might want to tell some of the more interesting events that happened in our lives or, more ambitiously, find a pattern of experience to show how we changed.

history as a creation story

Creation stories usually explain how the world began. However, the world is continually being created anew as time continues. Human situations change. The focus of history is properly upon the state of society. Residents of present-day Manhattan live in a world quite different from a primitive tribe of people living in the Amazon jungle. Yet, those Manhattan residents are part of a society that once looked more like what the Brazilian tribesmen now experience. There is a story - world history - that describes how humanity got from one situation to the other. There are events that specifically explain the origin of certain practices.

Historians approach this subject in various ways. I have my own scheme of world history that breaks the unfolding story of humanity into “chapters”, or coherent sets of stories, that show progression from one state to another. In “big history”, it is likewise possible to narrate the history of the universe, beginning with the “big bang” and carrying forth into the present and future. Stories are necessarily told from the storyteller’s egocentric point of view. In big history, for instance, we neglect events happening in billions of stars and planets to focus on our own solar system. But the discipline of a universal history requires an attempt to cover everything adequately.

"big history"

Let’s start with Big History. Here is how I would organize the chapters of this story:

Chapter 1 - Origin of the cosmos, the emergence of stars and gallaxies from the cosmic dust, creation of the heavier elements in stars

Chapter 2 - Formation of the sun and solar system, planets and the earth, the earth’s moon, earth’s atmosphere and crust, shifting tectonic plates, formation of mountains, glacial erosion, a system of rivers and seas

Chapter 3 - Life on earth, creation of organic molecules and DNA, multi-celled organisms, plant life and an oxygenated atmosphere, emergence of animals, hierarchies of species and the food chain

Chapter 4 - Appearance of the human species, mammals and apes, split from the ape family, bipedal transportation, the early hominoids, Australopithecus man, homo habilis, homo erectus, expanding brain size, Neanderthal man, homo sapien’s origin in and exodus from Africa, dispersal of the human species throughout the earth

Chapter 5 - The beginnings of human culture, expressions of thought, spoken language, the families of languages, tools and cave paintings, Paleolithic culture, hunting and fishing, pottery making, weaving, the ice age, life in nomadic communities, primitive religion, emergence of agriculture, domesticated animals, settled communities, metallurgy

Chapter 6 - The culture of written language, a way to make thought endure, how writing began in Mesopotamia and Egypt, ideographic symbols, governments and the formation of political empires, social hierarchies, alphabetic writing, the philosophical revolution of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., Socrates and Confucius, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, spiritual empires, religious manuscripts, monastic life

Chapter 7 - Machine-produced images and words, the Renaissance, Gutenberg’s printing press, the Protestant Reformation, religious pamphlets, books and newspapers, cult of the artist, European exploration, western colonization, trade and commerce, secular education, the industrial revolution, democratic government, capitalism, socialism, commercial advertising, photography, motion pictures, radio and television, popular entertainment, celebrity, salesmanship

Chapter 8 - The thinking machine, computer technology, machine calculations, the internet, decoding the human genome, the Frankenstein society, man recreates the thought process and his own species

Chapter 9 - Man escapes his earthly environment, exploding population, depletion of natural resources, war against microbes and drug-resistant germs, explorations of outer space, human colonization of space, man’s possible extinction

Big history looks at the physical universe and man’s part in it in a narrowing scope of attention. From the vast regions of space we focus on the solar system and the earth. Then life appears including human life. From human life comes speech and thought. Expressions of thought appear in written words, able to outlive their creator. Then we have the mass production of words through printing and the mass production of visual and auditory images by various electronic recording devices. The computer, while electronic, is a different kind of device because it permits two-way communication and processes information. In some ways, it is a more efficient machine for thinking than the human brain. Such technology accesses the complex structures of DNA allowing man to remake his physical nature.

five epochs of civilization

This is history at its most extensive. Somewhat narrower is the history of civilization. Here we are looking at the segment of history appearing in chapters 6 and 7 of big history, and to some extent in chapter 8. Civilized societies are to be distinguished from life in tribal communities before people lived in cities and writing was invented. History proceeded from written records. We take its story from the earliest city-states in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Egypt, Turkey, India, and China to the complex society of urban communities in the 21st century. I believe that this story can be coherently told by a scheme called “five epochs of civilization”.

First we have an introduction to that story in the situation of prehistoric man. This was before urban communities were developed. It was before writing had been invented. Civilized societies have two aspects according to this scheme: a dominant cultural technology and a dominant institution of power.

Chapter 1 - The first type of civilization was the kind that arose in Egypt and Mesopotamia five to six thousand years ago. Ideographic writing (in which visual symbols stood for words) was the communication technology that launched this historical epoch. Its society was dominated by the institution of government. And so world history in its first three thousand years was the story of kingdoms, wars, and the formation of political empires in various parts of the world. In the west, its culmination was the Roman empire.

Chapter 2 - The second type of civilization arose after alphabetic writing had spread widely in the middle east, south Asia, and the Mediterranean region. it began with the appearance of a remarkable group of philosophers and prophets in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. These great thinkers presented a moral critique of society. Eventually this stream of thought merged with earlier religious traditions to form world religions - principally, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam. The religions developed a power-sharing arrangement with government.

Chapter 3 - In the third civilization, focused upon western Europe, there was a cultural movement away from Christianity during the Renaissance. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th Century brought a flood of printed literature which spread knowledge to the masses. Europeans explored and colonized other parts of the world. the society became dominated by commerce and by secular education which stressed works of literature and history. Epitomized by Victorian England, this literate and prosperous society self-destructed in World War I.

Chapter 4 - The fourth type of civilization arose in the early part of the 20th Century as sports and other kinds of popular entertainment came to dominate the culture of industrialized societies. The technologies of phonograph recordings, motion pictures, radio, and television distributed its images widely. The media of news and entertainment became power centers in society. We were moving here away from literacy. Young people were obsessed with rock stars, sports heroes, and film personalities.

Chapter 5 - We are still writing this chapter of history. The personal computer is bringing society to a new type of culture. The Internet allows a more interactive type of communication between the providers and consumers of knowledge. Its culture spans the world. No doubt many other novel experiences will flow from this technology but I cannot say what they are.

Other types of history

These, then, are two ways to organize the larger set of experiences. Both types of history are creation stories encompassing all peoples and cultures. The standard histories tend to be smaller in focus. Instead of world history, we are often exposed to the history of western society. We also have national histories focused on the experience of the American people. Those have traditionally been chronologies of political rulers or administrations with a few wars thrown in. They may be written to glorify the people whose exploits are described in the histories.

The history of western peoples usually has a three-part structure: ancient, medieval, modern.

Ancient history consists of the history of the Greeks and Romans supplemented by accounts of the Jewish people found in the Bible. Peoples such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians may be peripherally involved. China, India, equatorial Africa, and, of course, the Americas are largely ignored. This period of history is often thought to have ended in 475 A.D. when the last emperor of the western Roman empire was deposed.

Medieval history begins with the ascendancy of the Christian church after Rome fell. The Pope, bishop of Rome, presided over a spiritual empire that commanded the allegiance of barbarian kings. Church and state jointly ruled western society, with the church being the senior partner. Its great enterprise was the series of crusades launched by Pope Urban II in 1095 A.D. to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim rulers. The cathedrals of Europe are enduring monuments to the church’s great influence. The Papacy gradually became weakened and discredited, especially after the Protestant Reformation split Christendom.

Modern history begins with the Italian Renaissance. Western peoples now turned away from religion as a new worldly spirit entered the culture. The several European nations fought to establish colonies and gain trade advantages. Products were traded between Europe, east Asia, America, and Africa. Wars were fought in Europe by nations seeking unsuccessfully to recreate the unity of the Roman empire. With the industrial revolution, new industries emerged based on new scientific inventions. Popular education exposed the masses to great literature. Great dramatists, poets, novelists, and composers of symphonies became proud exemplars of national cultures.

The term, “modern”, now seems inadequate as this type of culture is fast disappearing. What should one call the present era? “Post-modern”, perhaps? In fact, the culture has changed so much that historical traditions are hard to identify. With today’s young people interested in cable television, downloaded music, and video games rather than written works, it would seem that “history” itself has come to an end.

history written to glorify particular people

Whatever is left of written history seems to be for the purpose of glorifying particular peoples while disparaging others. Traditionally, history has been a chronicle of governments describing a succession of rulers, laws, wars, treaties, and other high-level events in a nation or imperial dynasty. Government leaders want history to present themselves in a good light. The story of progress is therefore written in terms of working from an inglorious beginning toward the present. “We” are the culmination of history. A 19th century textbook of American history narrates, besides the succession of presidential administrations, the wars and treaties that added territory to the United States until it stretched from sea to sea. In this grand march to fulfill our historical destiny, Indians were destined to bite the dust.

Now, of course, American history is written differently. Even so, politically powerful persons continue to write the history or, at least, arrange for certain kinds of history to be taught in the schools. I asked a high-school student of my acquaintance what she studied in her American-history course. “Slavery and discrimination” was the answer. I asked her what she studied in her course on world history. She said she studied “Nazis”. I assume that this meant studying the Holocaust.

Even if circumstances have changed, the current version of American history is likewise written from a political standpoint. Against white resistance, African Americans overcame slavery and discrimination in a proud march toward what they are today. World history is written from the standpoint of Jews dying in Nazi concentration camps. I suspect that blacks and Jews, or their respective supporters, had a hand in the political decisions that led to adoption of those textbooks which the high schools use.

So, in today’s American history, we have stories in which white people rather than Indians “bite the dust”. American history becomes a narrative of their decline. Expressing our national aspiration, Civil Rights leader Joseph Lowrey said this prayer at President Obama’s inauguration: “Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get [in] back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen!” In other words, the black, yellow, and red men can expect to advance socially while whites should do “what is right”. What is that? It is right, presumably, for the white race to step aside now so that others can take their place in society.

How do white children feel about that? I imagine they feel the same as how Indian school children might once have felt when they were taught that their culture was no good and the white man’s ways had to be adopted. A new group holding the reigns of power wants to control the narrative.

stories to make school children proud

When history characterizes particular groups of people as heroes or villains, it offends the identity of persons belonging to the groups that are negatively portrayed. The public schools require attendance. Students are not allowed to skip classes that might offend their dignity. I believe that requiring them to attend demographically contentious history classes is akin to the schools teaching doctrines of a particular religion. Those classes may be attended by persons of another faith. Students should not have to be exposed to hostile messages about their group and be asked to give “right” or “wrong” answers to tests reflecting the course values.

Identity is sacrosanct. Grade-school courses ought not intrude upon its space. This has nothing to do with falsifying history. Even if the offensive history is true, that does not mean that young people should be forced to listen to it or take tests based upon its point of view. Sensitivity should be shown to the audience, especially when children are involved. The general history should therefore be written from a standpoint that is morally neutral toward the various groups in society, or at least balanced, while audiences comprising these groups might, if they wish, study histories that make themselves look good.

For world history, I propose that the story be about the changing structure of society rather than the destiny of particular peoples. As personal identity exists at several levels, so history exists at those levels. There is a structure, like that of of government in which a citizen simultaneously belongs to national, state, and local communities. He or she feels no contradiction between those different civic identities. So we can have histories as broad or narrow as we wish. Each person can decide where and how to affiliate.

I would propose these principles for the writing of history. First, history should be approached as a science rather than as a religion. If it is a science, the historian will not feel compelled to make facts fit a particular belief. Instead, theories and beliefs will be changed in accordance with fact. A second and related principle is to resist the temptation to tell stories that make some people look good at the expense of others. Instead, tell a story the way it happened. Avoid moralizing about the characters.

It is sometimes argued that the standard American history textbook is, in effect, a “white people’s” history or a “male-dominated history” because the prominent persons in this history were mostly white males. Yet, even if Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and such persons were white males, the history was not written in that spirit. They were mentioned in history because of their roles in building the American nation. If the focus is on the nation-building process or the creation of a particular type of society, the story can be told without offending people.
Today, on the other hand, history textbooks are written in the spirit of including blacks because they are black and women because they are women. The name of the game is to see how much space in the general book of history will be given to my kind of person.

We need to begin thinking about history as a vehicle for promoting everyone’s dignity. In a globalized society, that is the path to world peace. Life, of course, brings forth situations where some people behave badly or well. History must be open to all types of experiences. However, it is the political use of history that concerns me. Repetitious history to make certain people feel guilty is a hostile act and the victim of that act has a right to complain.

ditch Moses and Pharaoh

There is an image in history that has caused much harm. It is the story of Moses who, with God’s help, defeated the Egyptian Pharaoh. Another such story is David slaying Goliath. When you pitch your story that way, you are making someone else lose so you can be the winner. Your positive identity depends on someone else’s loss. This kind of identity cannot be sustained in a community comprised of many groups. If everyone is posing as Moses, who will play Pharaoh’s part? It becomes impossible to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

In American politics, the majority white population has been cast in Pharaoh’s role while blacks and other minorities play Moses. We whites have become this huge group of losers being inflicted with various plagues. From an Egyptian standpoint, Moses was an ungrateful murderer brought up in Pharaoh’s household. White Americans must likewise suffer rancorous complaints in our political home. We need a story where the different types of people are not scheming to put each other at a moral disadvantage but instead deal with others in good faith.

toward a positive self-image

I as a white man, an American, or whatever my identity is now, want to see myself as being good. The black man, I’m sure, has similar aspirations; they are equally legitimate. And, let’s not forget the women, members of other races, or whoever else lives on this planet: Each of us has an identity which ought to be positive. If we do things of which we are proud, we help ourselves reach that end. We create a positive identity for ourselves.

However, the public perception or the telling of a story creates a tangible environment for projecting our positive self-image. It’s unhealthy when groups of people are persuaded to think of themselves as bad people or descendants of persons who committed crimes. History should be written to affirm the dignity of peoples, not tear it down.

Again, I am not advocating that negative events be whitewashed from history. All true facts should be accepted in this body of knowledge. And yet, there is a difference between history as knowledge and history as transmission of a people’s proud culture. Reconciling the two involves a balancing act.

For example, Japanese soldiers committed numerous brutal acts in China, Korea, and southeast Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. There is a controversy about how this history should be taught in Japanese schools. Complete omission would amount to falsifying history but smearing school children’s faces in the misdeeds of their forbearers would be unhelpful and cruel.

We want, instead, a sounding board for our own potential. Remember the custom of the Dagara tribe of west Africa in which a group of adults echoed the cries of a new-born baby, telling the baby he was recognized and welcomed into this world. That baby found a bond of identity. And so, each of us, even as adults, need our identities echoed in the community. We need to be publicly recognized for who we are. History offers a framework in which that can be accomplished.

some rules for identity

We need some rules for this type of identity to make sure that everyone is recognized and respected. Some of these rules may be briefly stated:

1. Be true to yourself. Your authentic identity is what you yourself think or do. If you have a thought, you at least think it is true. If you do something, that experience becomes a part of yourself. Build on such situations to a positive end.

2. Do not make your own positive identity dependent upon the negative identity of someone else. Let your identity stand on its own feet. Be yourself. Play your own game. Leave other people’s identities alone.

3. As a member of a group, limit yourself to determining the identity of your own group. Don’t tell members of other groups who they are or ought to be. That is their business, not yours. You are responsible for being yourself.

4. Beware of letting the government tell you who you are. You, the citizen, are master of the government; it is not your master. The government will invent many projects to decide how you spend your life. It will tell you that you owe so many years of public service, perhaps in the military. High-sounding politicians will appeal for self-sacrifice from you. No, you need to beat back those requests like a lion tamer keeping a monster at bay. Your life is yours, not the government’s.

Why be true to yourself? The desire is “self-evident”. You know in your heart what you want or what you believe. When someone else uses pressure tactics to overcome your true desire, it sets up an inner conflict that will not go away. You become strong by standing up for yourself. You become miserable by letting someone else control you. So many people today are wanting to do that. Their own identity may not satisfy them.

A person who has a creative vision and carries it to a successful conclusion is, for me, a model of positive identity. He finds satisfaction in his own work. An unhealthy identity exists where a person’s self-image depends on someone else. It is where a person becomes emotionally attached to another, either positively or negatively. The worst kind is attachment through hate. If someone hates another person, his mind is not free. A hate-based identity brings a negative dependence on someone else. A love-based identity is better, of course, but one should be careful not to go overboard. Our own identities should be strong enough to stand alone.

This book is written from a white man’s perspective. I can say what I think white people should be because I am part of that group. It would serve little purpose for me to try to prescribe black people’s identity. That is their business, not mine. I would not presume to intrude upon that domain unless invited to give an opinion. When we talk about humanity, of course, then we can all say what we think it should be since we all belong to that group. We should also want members of groups other than our own to do well since we are all in this world together.

identity on several levels

My own identity is therefore mutli-faceted. I am a physical creature, a human being, a member of civilized society, a 21st century American, a resident of Minneapolis, and so on. I am also white, male, and in my late 60s. The reason for presenting several versions of history is that each has a story pertaining to myself at some level. Even if a supernova explosion seems remote from myself, it is part of the physical universe in which I live. The story of civilization helps to define my own culture. My identity is related to my location in those larger stories. They help make sense of how my world evolved and where it is going.

Additionally, each person understands himself or is remembered for certain things. There is a story behind those memorable events. The story may span many years or it may describe events happening in a relatively short time. The person whose identity is shaped by the story would stand in the midst of it. The story would have a beginning and an end. It would include an exchange between conscious motivation and activities in the world. We have a natural sense of how stories should be told.

The problem is to make sure that it is our own stories that are being told. So many powerful groups want to control the narrative. We need to recognize the threat and develop adequate defenses. Another challenge is to recognize which of life’s experiences are personally significant and deserve to be remembered. Each person has many different experiences at many levels of involvement with the world. It may not be a single story but a collection of them that defines the whole person.

To put our own identities on a sound footing, it would help to reflect upon our lives, write down significant experiences, and look for comparable experiences in other people. The persons whom we would pick as personal heroes tell us much about ourselves. We would do well to discuss such things with other people so we are forced to articulate our personal thoughts and are put in a position of receiving feedback. Knowledge increases in the process.

white identity

Let me return to the idea that, as an American, I have effectively been defined as a white man. Others see me that way even if I would choose another identity. I and other whites are under so much pressure to denounce our race. I choose not to do so. With opposition to the white race centered in academia, journalism, and other organs of the cultural elite, white identity has acquired an anti-intellectual tone. The pockets of “white culture” are concentrated among lower-middle-class Americans.

Beneath the radar of educational and media elites, NASCAR races, appealing primarily to whites, have become the nation’s fastest growing spectator sport. While rock ‘n roll occupies the cultural mainstream, Country music with its adult themes has a large and predominantly white audience. Sarah Palin became an overnight sensation when McCain picked her as his running mate because she tapped into those cultural roots. A large group of previously underrepresented people - white people - felt that their presence was at last being recognized in mainstream politics.

By and large, the “white” culture flourishes with little help from the government, the media, foundations, or arts organizations. There is little intellectual support for such culture but instead a steady core of supporters. Alienated from the cultural elite, these supporters see themselves as the backbone of the “real America.” They have come to see an identity of their own arising spontaneously from events in their lives.

Yes, there is white racial hate, and that is unfortunate. So is racial, ethnic, or religious hate of any sort. But let me as a white man address white racism specifically. Whites are increasingly threatened by hostile or unflattering images in the media, by their legitimate grievances being characterized as racist hate, and by their general powerlessness in this society. They are put in a box that is nailed shut. It seems that no political movement will correct the situation. Whites as whites are being silenced.*

Some responding to this situation respond through violence which they see as a strong and potentially effective response. But all it does is intensify the stereotype of white racism and prolong the loss. The media will not give our point of view a fair shake. Unpromising it may seem, however, the best way back to dignity and strength is through public opinion.

Violence and unbridled expressions of hate are preferred by simpleminded persons who want quick solutions. The solution will not be quick. We therefore need patience. We need to persuade our fellow citizens that our cause is just. We need to exhibit true good will towards men and be friends with whoever will accept us as friends.

We also need to oppose entrenched groups in the media, education, and religion, who would do us harm - hostile journalists in a “fourth branch of government” that cannot be removed from office, hateful and dogmatic educators with tenure, religious professionals who use God’s name to promote their own political views. These ideological enemies can be beaten not by direct appeals but by bypassing them and appealing to a broader audience.

Ultimately, the game will be won in the arena of reasoned argument. It will be won by setting a more decent example. The missing ingredient thus far has been the courage to admit what we know and feel to be right. We whites need the courage to compete openly in the realm of ideas. With a persistent push, we can win.

The message about white people in the media focuses on the “bigot”, the “hater”, the “loser” who lashes back pathetically. No platform is given those who express themselves in reasoned, self-confident ways. And so the media sees what it wants to see. It reports what conforms to its own stereotypes. It’s up to us, however, to decide whether to accept this dishonest culture or place ourselves in opposition.

Our dignity as white people will not endlessly be denied. By an unseen dialectic, the judgment of history is swinging to an opposite position. If you can believe it, our time will come soon.

* As I write these words (February 20, 2010), I was supposed to be attending a conference near Washington, D.C., featuring a speech by Nick Griffin of the British National Party, a newly elected member of the European Parliament, and sponsored by a pro-white publication called “American Renaissance.” It would have been my first acquaintance with this group. On the day before I was to have flown to Dulles airport, I learned that the conference had been cancelled because of pressures put on hotels where the conference would have taken place by “anti-racist” protestors, including a former official of the FBI and of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The conference organizers had commitments from four different hotels to hold the conference, but, one after another, they all changed their mind after receiving threats from the protestors. No news organization covered the cancellations

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