Positive ethnic theory

Sam Smith – Lately I’ve been struggling with the obsession of the media and academia over the evils of past ethnic relations, not because they didn’t exist but because they are given such priority over present solutions that it actually makes me feel depressed about the future.

A lot of this comes from the culture of media and academia, the former favoring disasters over solutions and the latter preferring analysis to action. As Albert Camus put it, “Purely historical thought is … nihilistic: it wholeheartedly accepts the evil of history and in this way is opposed to rebellion.”

I can’t for example, think of much talk about slavery during the civil rights rebellions of the 1960s. What we were going to do next was just so much more important.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be teaching the history of ethnic cruelty to our young, only that it should be balanced by learning how it has been successfully challenged and what the true nature of the world’s multicultural character is about.
You might not believe it owing to the lack of good results, but one of the things I scan the news for is ways in which ethnic relations can be or have been improved. But journalism these days doesn’t care much about solutions and so things like improved police departments or good courses in ethnicity get passed over. Or the fact that an increasing number of marriages are cross-ethnic.

I learned early to regard multiculturalism as an asset thanks to things like Puerto Rican relatives and a teenage love of jazz. I majored in anthropology and learned things that even many liberals don’t accept, such as the term “race” being without a scientific basis. And I lived happily for five decades in a Washington DC with a black majority. Multiculturalism has made my life far more interesting and enjoyable, but I feel almost afraid to mention this in the era of “critical racial theory.”

We treat ethnic relations as though they were only a problem, which is one reason they remain such a problem. We need a positive ethnic theory to balance off the critical one. And to enjoy the fact that there are so many different ways to do things and talk about them.