Happy Immutable Characteristic Month!
Wednesday was the start of March, and the beginning of Women’s History month. It came after February, which is Black History Month, and before April, which is Arab-American heritage month. Throughout the year, there is also an Asian-American Pacific-Islander Heritage Month, a Haitian Heritage Month, a Jewish-American History Month, a Caribbean-American Heritage Month, LGBT Pride Month, and many others. There is a Black Catholic History month, but not a Catholic History month. At this point, some people will object to all these different groups having their own months while there is never a Men’s History Month or a White History Month. Why do women have a history month, but men don’t? Why does every other ethnic group have a history month, but white people don’t?
Why are the accomplishments and achievements of white people and of men being slighted, and not appreciated with a specified month in their honor? It feels like a slap in the face, an attempt to disrespect members of those two groups. White men are not allowed to be acknowledged for their accomplishments because they have been designated for cancelation. It is curious that every white man is continually reminded of and held accountable for every bad thing that white men have ever done in history, but at the same time white men are not supposed acknowledge any good that any white men has ever done. Ignore all the good and focus solely on the bad. That’s healthy for society.
But the more I think about it, the more I go back to the way I thought, when I first heard of the idea of a month honoring a specific group of people. It is stupid. It is pandering. It is divisive. It is the exact opposite of healing and unifying. These months encourage people to view themselves based on their gender or their ethnicity or the color of their skin, thinking of themselves in a way that is the exact opposite of what is healthy for themselves and best for society. We are all individuals. We are all unique unto ourselves. By lumping us into specific groups by criteria that do not or should not define us, is confining, putting us into a box.
If some white person or some man did something great, that is not a reflection on me, as a white male. It is a reflection on him. I do not get credit for what that white man did simply because I have the same skin color or the same sexual chromosomes. It doesn’t work that way. Viewing the accomplishment as a reflection on ourselves, compels us to look at ourselves as the group and not as an individual. It removes individual accomplishment and accountability from the self, in favor of the group. It becomes dangerous and divisive. But these months are not designed to honor great accomplishments or great people; they are designed to promote the preferred group over other groups. The person and the accomplishment are only important because they do just that.
If we are going to identify with a group outside the self, it is most inclusive to identify with the entirety of the human race. The great accomplishments of all human beings show what we all are capable of doing, not just the accomplishments of people within our particular group. Identifying with the human race, is expansive; identifying with one specific race or gender or group is restrictive. You only serve to limit yourself if you define yourself by these outward characteristics that define nothing about who you are to your core.
In the movie, First Man, which chronicles the United States astronauts landing on the moon, the director, Damien Chazelle, made the controversial decision not to show the astronauts planting the United States flag on the moon. Actor Ryan Gosling, who played Neil Armstrong in the movie, defended that decision by saying, the movie “celebrates an achievement ‘for all mankind’.” It was an accomplishment of humanity, not just of one country, or one race, or one gender.
So, America and white men cannot specifically be celebrated for their accomplishments, they have to be celebrated as accomplishments for all mankind. Yet at the same time, when anyone in any of the other groups ever achieves anything, even if the feat had been accomplished decades prior, they are celebrated. The first woman to… the first black person to… the first Asian to… Just being the first from your preferred group to do anything that has been done for years, becomes the accomplishment itself.
We can’t acknowledge walking on the moon as a white man’s accomplishment or an American accomplishment, it must be framed as a human accomplishment. Which is fine. But when a black astronaut or a woman astronaut walks on the moon, it will be lauded as an accomplishment for Black people or an accomplishment for women, even though, it had been accomplished over a half century ago. When the criterion for an accomplishment is defined by the race or the gender of the person, then the true accomplishment becomes merely being a member of that specific race or gender. The actual feat is secondary to the membership to one of those specific groups, and the individual self-identity becomes lost and overshadowed by the group identity.
Maybe the reason why so many people are having identity crises these days is because people in our society are being forced to create their identities in things that are beyond their core self, based on immutable characteristics that define their group identity. But there is no racial identity, there is no gender identity. Those things do not exist. They are creations of the mind. You have a race and a gender, but your race and gender do not define who you are. They do not create your identity. Who you are as an individual defines what your identity is.
One of the charges of racism that is sometimes levied against white people is that, “not all black people look alike.” Which is absolutely correct. But not all black people think alike, not all white people think alike, not all women think alike, and not all men think alike. Not all black people, white people, men and women act alike either, or have the same morality, or core beliefs. There is a diversity within the society-defined diversity groups that is so much more nuanced, profound and determinative that it transcends the diversity groups themselves.
Is an act of courage or grace more or less profound based on which group the person committing the act belonged to? Why can’t a white man be inspired by an accomplishment of a black woman or a black woman inspired by an accomplishment of a white man? Can’t we all be inspired by an accomplishment of another human being by the mere fact that we share a common humanity, or does differences in ethnicity, race or gender negate our human connection? This push for inclusivity is actually exclusive. The real racists and the real sexists are the ones who focus on and define the world based primarily on race and sex, and they are the ones who came up with these Group Identity History Months so that everyone would define themselves and the world by race and gender which only serves to divide us even further apart.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.