Diversity -- or Divisiveness? US Focus on Race, Gender, Ethnicity Overlooks the Individual
Milton Ezrati. Milton Ezrati writes frequently on economic, financial, and public policy issues., The Christian Science Monitor
NOT long ago, my daughter came home from school and asked for our national flag. Remembering a small Stars and Stripes that once marked my place at an international dinner, I fetched it and gave it to her.
"No!" she said, "that is the American flag. I need our national flag." She explained that the school's "diversity lunch" required each student to bring in a flag or symbol of his or her national, racial, or ethnic heritage, as well as a traditional food.
I told her that, like many Americans, our background was mixed and I was not even sure of all its elements. I could not choose a single flag. Besides, we did not feel a particular link to any of our background groups.
She went to school with the Stars and Stripes and some homemade baked goods of indeterminate national origin. But she returned home that day in tears. The teacher was disappointed, and the children accused her of claiming to be more American than others.
The incident was confusing and upsetting. We had sent her off believing that all the students had an equal right to that flag. As it was, my daughter had felt slightly disadvantaged, having to relinquish claim to some special group.
Not long ago, schools projected a very different image of the United States. In that picture, people from all over the world could throw off old prejudices and build a new nation, regardless of their complexion, accent, or the spelling of their name. …