Focus on inclusion, not identity politics | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

While I was unable to make the event due to a prior commitment, I appreciated Mr. Marano’s piece on “Diversity outreach” (Oct. 11, 2018). Personally, I hope Ms. Erin Phillips has another event like this so that I may attend it.

However, she pointed out one common fallacy people have about Bainbridge Island. She stated, “‘It’s kind of hard to believe in such a progressive community as Bainbridge’” can be racist. The fallacy that people who are “progressive” are “inclusive.”

Being progressive, I have learned, rarely evolves into genuine tolerance and acceptance. How many of us indulge in stereotypes of those who are religious, conservative and the like? How many of us have used the term “white trash” to refer to those “intolerant people”? Just because a slur or a stereotype is “accepted” doesn’t mean that it is not a stereotype. Diversity is not “celebrated” like a party or a wedding. Diversity is simply a reality that offers excellent educational opportunities for people exposed to it, provided the individuals view everyone else with equal respect and dignity.

Too often what happens is that some people who identify themselves as “progressive” end up falling all over themselves to show someone from a racial minority just how “celebratory” they are. I suspect that the children who were asked if they were going to be deported simply reflected the hyperbolic reaction to current events. They may very well think that “anyone who is non-white is going to be deported” because that’s what they end up hearing.

In addition, they could very well want to show how “inclusive” they are by treating the non-white as some sort of foreigner rather than just “someone who lives on Bainbridge Island.”

Personally, I view diversity positively and inclusion possible, but inclusion is only possible when we move away from “identity politics” and toward viewing identity as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. That “end” being a common destiny where someone “loves his (or her) neighbor as himself (or herself).” If a wrong is committed against an ethnic group, that’s the time to use empathy and personalize it as if it is happening to you.

That’s something I try to do, and it is something I hope will become common in my lifetime, but it seems farther away now then it was decades ago.

FRANCIS JACOBSON

Bainbridge Island

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