Perhaps you have noticed that we use the first person plural a lot. Ourselves. Who we are. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that, like it or not, we’re all in this together. Race in America has changed over the centuries, but it hasn’t yet diminished. E Pluribus Unum is more hope than reality, even today.
The second reason may be even more important than the first. Our language about social groups fits the us vs. them mentality we often decry. There are differences, of course–some deep and meaningful, others less so. But the more I study “intergroup relations,” the more I realize that we are studying the situations the groups are in more than we are studying the groups themselves. There’s nothing genetic about the perspectives of either dominant or subordinate groups; those perspectives arise as a result of life experiences. It’s the different experiences that yield the different perspectives. If I’d had a different set of life experiences, I’d likely have a different set of perspectives, too.
Read this section, please, with curiosity, self-reflection, and empathy. Our frustration about racial issues often stems from the seeming irrationality of others’ views. Where would they get an idea like that? In our “what planet are they from?” moments, we ask this question rhetorically, to make our own points and express our own aggravations. As you read about The View from Above (perspectives of most dominant group members) and The View from Below (perspectives of most subordinate group members), try asking this question sincerely. Where would they get an idea like that? usually has an answer that can help us understand, even if we don’t agree.