Dave Chappelle’s at it again with his latest Netflix comedy special. There’s already a lot of buzz about it, a lot of criticism, and a lot of “Thank God someone said it,” but one thing he said in particular made me think (and laugh).
“And that’s why we’ll never beat China. Because everyone in America is racist, and everyone in China is Chinese.”
It’s a joke, but you laugh because it’s true.
The melting pot that is this country is something that we pride ourselves on. We’re a nation of immigrants. Our strength lies in our diversity. Our national makeup is a tapestry of flags from around the world.
Blah, blah, blah, etc. etc.
But there are two sides to every coin, and the US has a bit of a unique problem when it comes to our diversity. Other countries are feeling this more strongly now, with immigration and globalization being contributing factors, but racism has long been a struggle that Americans know well. It almost split our country in two.
Yes, the idea of a melting pot is sweet and wonderful and idealistic, but the reality of what happens when you put too many different types of people together in one place is a bit darker than many of us – even today – are willing to admit.
Heterogeneity is important, though. You need different voices, backgrounds, and ideas to advance society beyond what has always been. You need the adapt with grace and dynamism, and to remain competitive with the rest of the world. A really great way to do that is through inclusion and open-mindedness.
The unfortunate flip side to that, though, is in-fighting, competitiveness between team members, and conflicting goals, motives, or methods. And when you shove too many differences together in one room, these things are inevitable.
They don’t have to be defeating factors, though. The goal can still be achieved, that is, once a common goal is actually agreed upon.
I suppose it comes down to focus.
Are we focusing on differences, or are we focusing on commonalities? I promise, we’ve got more in common than most people realize.
Humanity transcends any kind of cultural, religious, societal, or economic differences we could possess. We all want a better world to live in, and we want to leave a better one for our grandchildren. We all want comfort and security, and happiness and ease. We want to protect our loved ones and fight for the things we believe in.
Whatever we give our attention to, we exacerbate, so why not amplify the common needs and desires, and then embrace what we can all bring to the table to reach a resolution?
The danger in focusing on the differences is that familiarity can breed contempt. We’ve all heard that before. The more you know, the more you find to disagree with or dislike. The more you’re around a certain group of people, the more you’re able to generalize and stereotype. And depending on your own outlook and perspective, the easier it is to discriminate against, discount, and disregard.
Dave Chappelle argued that the inherent prejudices that exist in our nation will hold us back, causing us to be less competitive on the world stage, especially against the more homogenous cultures. I see his point.
Success comes, in part, from eliminating distractions and hindrances. The more you can simplify in life, the less you have to acknowledge and deal with on the day-to-day. That’s why Steve Jobs wore the same thing every single day – it was one less decision he had to make in the morning. Every little bit counts, apparently.
Racism is one thing some cultures just don’t need to deal with, at least not in the capacity we do here in the States. Yes, that’s changing, but for now, there are still societies where this is generally the case. It must be nice where things like affirmative action and inclusiveness aren’t concerns because they don’t need to be. But we’ll soon see how well these other nations do as diversity continues to become more of a factor in their lives.
Often, this country suffers from a problem of being too large to govern. The land itself is a living, breathing thing, and it shapes the people living upon it. People in New York do not live the same lives as those in Los Angeles, or more starkly, those in Des Moines or Boise.
But that just means perspective. It means more than one way to solve a problem. No, we don’t all have the same issues, and no, we won’t always see eye-to-eye on things, but that’s OK. Things that are a part of our reality aren’t necessarily things that people in other regions even think about.
For instance, think back to the 2016 election. Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, shed light on the “forgotten” workers who were trying to find their footing in a changing landscape. Their industries were/are dying and they were left without a shoulder to cry on, let alone any kind of direction for where they could turn to for work. Honestly, many Americans hadn’t even considered their plight, mainly because we weren’t aware of it. While industries advance all the time, which inevitably leads to the obsolescence of technologies and solutions, there are casualties that come along with that. However, I don’t expect someone in SoCal to expend too much thought on the struggles of the West Virginian coal miners.
Similarly, a good friend and I were talking the other night. He’s a white male, and we grew up together. He was commenting on how eye-opening the Charlottesville riots were for him. When he saw people with tiki torches spewing racist rhetoric in the streets of his America, he finally understood – on a deep, painful level – that racism is not something that went away with the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Movement, or the election of Barack Obama. It’s still a thing that many Americans live with.
It’s a parallel reality that exists alongside his own.
To put it much more simply, someone living in a warm climate won’t truly grasp what it means to live in one of the northern states until they go visit in the middle of winter. Sure, they know it’ll be cold, but they don’t completely understand how many layers of clothes they need to put on before stepping outside in the morning. They don’t know how annoying it is to check your coat every time you go out for the evening. They’ve never experienced what it’s like to slip on the ice as you’re walking down the sidewalk, or worse, while you’re driving.
It’s the little things that bring realities to life for us. And it’s through these realities that we learn to appreciate one another. Once we can find a genuine appreciation for our neighbors, China will be no match for us.