Racial Conflict and Diversity

By Michael B Sullivan mbs2@Ra.MsState.Edu

I A. As has been loudly proclaimed in the media, the United States will over the next 50 years be subject to "unprecedented" demographic changes. The "white" population is projected to be, by 2050, a slight minority when compared to all other demographic groups combined, with the average age of said population being significantly higher then the mean age of those other demographic groups, such as "black," "hispanic," and "asian," that make up the rest of the population (US Census Bureau, 1995).

B. In the face of these changes, the goal of the United States as reflected in Supreme Court rulings is clear--it is peaceful social integration; that is, the goal is for Americans of various racial and ethnic groups to be able to live together, work together, and cooperate in the electoral process together.

II. Macro Level Assumptions v the Interpersonal Reality

A. 1. In order for any two individuals, regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds, to have a healthy interpersonal relationship, the cardinal rule is to limit the degree to which inaccurate generalizations from experiences with or knowledge of similar yet different others (i.e., the psychological notion of the transference effect) sway the interpretation of ambiguous interpersonal feedback from one individual to another (Sharff,1996, Masserman, 1961). To the degree the interpretation of such feedback is colored via over-generalized assumptions, and this in turn has a detrimental impact upon accurate interpersonal communication, a parataxic distortion (Sullivan, 1954) is taking place. This parataxic distortion will hereon be referred to as a pathological transference effect.

2. Racially based transference effects, being an expression of the automatic and ubiquitous processes of stimulus generalization and concept formation (Allport, 1954, Riccio & Spear, 1994, Klein, 1996, Domjan & Burkhard, 1993, Reynolds,1968, Masters, Burish, Hollon & Rimm, 1987, Riccio, Ackil & Burch-Vernon, 1992), have been shown to be nearly innate, with perceived race as a discriminative stimulus having a particular conceptual salience for both children (McGraw, Durm & Durnam, 1988) and adults (Stangor, Lynch, Duan, & Glass, 1992).

3. Because of its salience and the ease with which irrational generaliztions along racial lines may occur (Allport, 1954, DeCarvalho, 1993), it can be argued that based upon the psychological literature, the risk of widespread pathological transference effects along these lines within any multiracial political entity should always be considered both real and immediate by the citizens, leaders and guardians of said entity.

Please consider the following two definitions and the 2 quotes that follow them:

virus (vres) noun; plural viruses

1. a. Any of various simple submicroscopic parasites of plants, animals, and bacteria that often cause disease and that consist essentially of a core of RNA or DNA surrounded by a protein coat. Unable to replicate without a host cell, viruses are typically not considered living organisms. b. A disease caused by a virus.

2. Something that poisons ones soul or mind: the pernicious virus of racism.

3. Computer Science. A computer virus. [Latin vrus, poison.] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition

infect (n-fkt) verb, transitive; infected, infecting, infects

1. To contaminate with a pathogenic microorganism or agent.
2. To communicate a pathogen or disease to.
3. To invade and produce infection in.
4. To contaminate or corrupt: envy that infected their thoughts; a society that was infected by racism.
5. To affect in a contagious way: His fear infected me, and . . . I followed as fast as I could (W.H. Hudson).
[Middle English infecten, to afflict with disease, from Latin nficere, nfect-, to stain, infect (in-, in; See in-2 + facere, to do).] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition

"War is a contagion." Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. Speech, 5 Oct. 1937, Chicago. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

"That strange feeling we had in the war. Have you found anything in your lives since to equal it in strength? A sort of splendid carelessness it was, holding us together." Noel Coward (1899-1973), British playwright, actor, composer. John Cavan, in Post-Mortem, sc. 6. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press.

B. 1. A racialized identity as used below will refer to when race becomes a paramount factor in ones definition and understanding of self and others. An individual with a racialized identity will be referred to as a racialist, and any ideological belief system that espouses such an identity will be said to be encouraging racialization.

2. Because of the reality that there are far more differences between any two human beings within any given racial group then between any two racial groups on a whole, and, conversely, there are far more similarities between two different racial groups then between any two individuals within a given racial group (Wangler, 1995), it can be said with accuracy that a racialized identity is an identity not conducive towards an accurate appreciation of human individuality, and therefore one by which virtually random harm may come to unique individual citizens. This was recognized by the Supreme Court in Anderson v Martin regarding the effects of including race along with the party and name of candidates on voting ballots (1964):

"by placing a Racial label on a candidate at the most crucial stage in the electoral processthe instant before the vote is castthe state furnishes a vehicle by which racial prejudice may be so aroused as to operate against one group because of race and for another. This is true because by directing the citizens attention to the single consideration of race or color, the state indicates that a candidates race or color is an important, perhaps paramount consideration...the vice lies not in the resulting injury but in the placing of the power of the state behind a racial classification that induces racial prejudice...we see no relevance in the States pointing up the race of the candidate as bearing upon his qualifications for office. Indeed, this factor in itself underscores the purely racial character and purpose of the statute."

3. Similarly, expressing a philosophy later adopted by the Court in 1993 in Shaw v Reno, Justice Douglas in 1964 counseled against socio-political racial and ethnic classifications, pointing out that wherever such a "communal" philosophy has been embraced over individual reality in the past by a multiethnic, multi-religious, or multiracial democracy, it has lead to an aggravation of racial and ethnic hostilities, not peace and prosperity, for said democracy (Wright v Rockefeller, 1964). He noted in his wisdom that

"here (in the United States) the individual is important, not his race, his creed, or his color. The (this) principle of equality is at war with the notion that district A must be represented by a Negro, as it is with the notion that district B by Catholic, and so on...that system, by whatever name it is called, is a divisive force in a community, emphasizing differences between candidates and voters that are irrelevant in the constitutional sense...when racial or religious lines are drawn by the state, the multiracial, multireligious communities that our constitution seeks to weld together as one become separatist; antagonisms that relate to race or religion rather then to political issues are generated; communities seek not the best representative but the best racial or religious partisan. Since that system is at war with the democratic ideal, it should find no footing here."

The late Justice Brennan of the supreme court had also wisely noted that

"even in the pursuit of remedial objectives, an explicit policy of assignment by race may serve to stimulate our societys latent race consciousness, suggesting the utility and propriety of basing decisions on a factor that ideally bears no relationship to an individuals worth or needs" (Quoted by O'Conner in Shaw v Reno, 1993).

4. Note that this legal philosophy has not forbidden the use of racial classifications in order to determine compliance with affirmative action mandates, or in the investigation of racial discrimination at the collective level, for in the decision Swann v Board of Education (1971) Justice Burger, speaking for a unanimous court, specified that

"just as the race of students must be considered in determining whether a constitutional violation has occurred, so also must race be considered in formulating a remedy. To forbid...all assignments made on the basis of race would deprive school authorities of the one tool absolutely essential to fulfillment of their constitutional obligation to eliminate existing dual school systems."

Rather, what the justices appear to be saying is that while race must sometimes be a factor when addressing problems of discrimination, what they feel poses a special danger to the republic are state policies which would needlessly promote the racialization of her citizens, for this itself would encourage pathological race based transference effects amongst the populace.

C. 1. In can be gleaned from the aforementioned court rulings that in the absence of individual racial prejudice, the philosophy which the Supreme court appears to be encouraging in its attempts to avoid radicalizing the citizenry of this nation is one of Universal Individualism (UI), where UI is defined as an:

"ideology (that) holds that there are universal standards against which all patterns of behavior can be judged...the universal standards proposed by universal individualists are compatible with the view that all cultural or ethnic groups have equal worth. According to universal individualist ideology, however, all persons are bound to standards of individual behavior that transcend cultural or ethnic group norms. Universal standards are rooted in assimilationism, a school of thought promoted by a select group of prominent early 20th century sociologists. Two major societal goals are viewed as highly desirable by assimilationists: (a) integration, where all racial/ethnic groups have equal access to education, jobs, housing, opportunities, and social relationships; and (b) acculturation, where diverse racial/ethnic groups eventually come to share a common American culture. The major goal of education, therefore, is to enable students from all subcultures to acquire the values and behavior of the mainstream culture. In the event of a conflict between cultural values/behaviopatterns, it is mainstream values/behavior patterns that must take precedent" (Frisby, 1992).

2. In regards to education, the Supreme Court has made clear that US educational institutions are in fact acting on behalf of the state (James, 1994) as state representatives, from which comes the conclusion that active efforts within the educational system to racialize American students, where they may exist, may be a violation of federal law in addition to being both short-sighted and destructive. Along similar lines and relating specifically to those university settings that provide housing to students, anywhere within the United States that a given community of people reside, regardless of who or what owns that community, the people who reside there are both protected by and subject to the Constitution of the United States and the rulings of the Supreme Court. As stated by Justice Douglas in Evans et al. v Newton et al (1966):

"What is private action and what is state action is not always easy to determine...Conduct that is formally private may become so entwined with governmental policies or so impregnated with a governmental character as to become subject to the constitutional limitations placed upon state action...A town may be privately owned and managed, but that does not necessarily allow the company to treat it as if it were wholly in the private sector. Thus...the exercise of constitutionally protected rights on the public streets of a company town could not be denied by the owner. A state is not justified...in permitting a corporation to govern a community of citizens so as to restrict their fundamental liberties. We have also held that...when private individuals or groups are endowed by the state with powers or functions governmental in nature, they become agencies or instrumentalities of the state and subject to its constitutional limitations."

3. While this does not invalidate reasonable limitations of privacy rights enjoyed by students in order to achieve an effective learning environment (James, 1994), the totality of the aforementioned rulings do clearly argue that US educational institutions should not encourage race-based solidarity, even as an administration actively utilizes racial classifications to further the admirable and patriotic goal of social integration, for fostering such primitive tribal divisions would threaten an end cost to society far greater then any conceivable advantages to be obtained.

IV. Current Educational and Societal Trends

A. 1. Opposed to the notion of assimilation and the presumed loss of cultural/ethnic identity by ethnic and cultural subgroups that would result, a competing ideology which will be referred to here as Idealistic Multiculturalism (IM), also known as Diversity, has been making itself felt throughout the educational system of the United States over the last several years (Frisby, 1992, Flowers & Richardson, 1996, Brasor, 1994, Zurcher, 1996, Bluestone, Stokes, & Kuba, 1996). IM tends to define assimilation as a form of cultural genocide and pursues social integration along with the total preservation of cultural, linguistic, and racial diversity. As described by Frisby (1992),

"This ideological school of thought accepts as a given that pluralism, rather then assimilationism, is the proper metaphor for describing the inevitable result of a societys modernization. According to the tenets of pluralism, it is natural for racial/ethnic groups to: (a) maintain symbolic or structural distinctions between themselves and others, (b) to interpret the national ethos for its members differently, which leads to ethnicity-based (racial) differences in how people are expected to think, feel, and act, and (c) derive sociopolitical or psychological benefits from maintaining racial/ethnic distinctions. When an attitude of respect for and validation of all cultures is communicated, then cultures accommodate to one another (emphasis not added). The extent to which this occurs will determine the extent to which all cultures can live together in peace and brotherhood.

In the context of American education, the ideology of idealistic Multiculturaism rests on assumptions that: (a) culture (meaning race) is a stable characteristic of children that has a deterministic relationship to how children think, feel, act, and learn; (b) teachers and testmakers are morally obligated to adapt the content and style of their teaching and tests to childrens identified cultural characteristics (i.e., race norming); and (c) such adaptations should lead to equal educational outcomes for all cultures. Multicultural ideology is reflected in curriculum reform movements geared toward increasing depictions of various ethnic groups in childrens reading books, reinterpreting history lessons, increasing formal celebrations and recognition in schools of the accomplishments made by culturally diverse heroes, implementing alternative forms of assessment, and promoting anti-racist instructional techniques for teachers.

The basic flaw of idealistic Multiculturalism is that many of its assumptions are unsupportable by objective evidence. Elmer and Elmer (1988) studied the history and current status of ethnic conflicts in over 70 countries (including the US) on every major continent. Among the most basic of their conclusions was that ethnic conflict was universal and inevitable....Elmer and Elmers conclusion is supported by the observation that many Multicultural curriculum reform movements in schools are often marked by simmering resentments, protests, blaming, political infighting, threats of legal actions, accusations of racism, and resistance...While critics accuse universal individualists of blaming the victim for the academic failures of blacks, critics accuse idealistic multiculturalists of blaming everyone and everything else....cultural bias in IQ and achievement testing, group/tracking practices in schools, the racism and insensitivity of teachers, or the mismatch between home/school culture as being primarily responsible for the disproportionate school failure of black children and youth. Some writers have even gone so far as to imply that the school failure of African-Americans may be the result of a conscious and organized conspiracy" (Frisby, 1990).

2. A negative effect of IM ideology can clearly be argued to be the resultant racialization of American students, or the aggravation of preexisting racialization tendencies, where due to the increased emphasis upon racial group membership, accurate perceptions of unique individuals are progressively reduced while pressure to conform to racial subgroup norms is increased. Indeed, looking more closely at the proclaimed advantages of racialization, such as increased ingroup self esteem and hoped for increases in academic performance (Cheatham, Slaney & Coleman, 1990) along with decreased violence within a given ingroup (Soriano, Soriano & Jimenez, 1994), strong evidence is suggesting that the consequences of racialization are actually a decrease in objective test performance (Steel, 1997). Further, it has long been known that any reduction in ingroup violence achieved by simply emphasizing ingroup homogeneity would come at the price of an increased probability of violence and hostility aimed at a perceived outgroup (Dion, 1973).

3. Of grave importance is that while emphasizing individuality over group membership is known to reduce the probability of intergroup conflict (Wilder, 1978), the stance of Multicultural educators is one which assumes prima facie that an increased degree of internalized racial identity signifies a greater, not lesser, degree of psychosocial and scholastic adjustment (Cheatham et al., 1990). Scholastic performance indicating the converse is meet by such theorist with diatribes classifying reason itself as a dispensable commodity in the academy, and a call for scholastic tests to be modified to whatever degree necessary to achieve equal outcome between whites and all other racial and ethnic groups, with a careful sidestepping of the Asian scholastic achievement issue (i.e., Helms,1992).

4. Conversely, the non-stressing of racial group membership and the simple setting of high academic standards appear to do much in the way of increasing the performance of minority college students on objective testing, reducing drop out rates, and encouraging healthy interpersonal cross-racial relationships (Steel, 1997).

V. The Cycle of The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

A. 1. There are two routes to a racialized identity which are of concern here. The first is the teaching route alluded to above, which both common sense and scientific data argue will result in a worsening of race relations and a substantial increase in the probability of ethnic conflict within the continental United States. The second route of import here is via interactions between members of any given racialized group and a novel human perceived to be an outgroup member.

2. Because racialization via the inherent overemphasis of the collective encourages the personalization of events which do not directly affect one, it also encourages a generalization of those feelings of outrage which result. When novel humans are made aware that they have been targeted for hostility on the basis of their perceived race, rather then because of actions which they themselves are responsible for or the philosophy of life they hold, the mechanisms of concept formation, basic learning and Darwinian survival virtually assure that the racial characteristics of both themselves and others are attended to more strongly. That is, race will likely become, by default and necessity, more important in their view of the world, and hence, racilization will spontaneously occur. To illustrate, naive black Americans exposed to KKK ideology or the writings of Neo-Nazi intellectuals would likely be pushed towards racialization, just as naive white Americans exposed to the anti-Western anti-"white" writings of IM extremists would be. In both cases an increase in racial awareness would inherently decrease the appreciation for human individuality.

3. To the degree that two racialized members of two given self-defined outgroups interact with one another without due regard for individual differences, logic would dictate that a cycle of racialization and confirmed expectations would increase the likelihood of expressed cross racial hostility, this in turn eliciting responses that validate and increase the level of that rhetoric, thus pushing both sides closer to irrational group conflict and, given a long enough time horizon, actually resulting in such a conflict. Clearly, such an outcome would be both harmful to American society and at odds with the wishes of the Supreme Court--the body entrusted to consider the long term ramifications of social engineering--regardless of how attractive it might appear to "Diversity experts" in the short term.

4. Despite the plausibility of this model and strong evidence that those Universities engaging in head-over-heels Diversity programming experience a worsening of race relations on their campuses (i.e., Brasor, 1994, Frisby, 1992), the trend has been to cut back funding and emphasis upon foundation courses in favor of Diversity oriented substitutes. As stated by Zurcher (1996):

"if (universities) can no longer define educational essentials and, in particular, no longer guarantee that students acquire a basic knowledge of their civilization and its heritage we are in danger of losing the common frame of cultural reference that for many generations has sustained our liberal, democratic society. Our data suggests that this danger is quite real. They reveal that during the last thirty years the general educational programs of most of our best institutions have ceased to demand that students become familiar with the basic facts of their countrys history, political and economic systems, philosophic traditions, and literary and artistic legacies that were once conveyed through mandated and preferred survey courses. Nor do they, as thoroughly as they did for most of the earlier part of the century, require that students familiarize themselves the natural sciences and mathematics. And particularly surprising, especially in a period when so much attention is given to the benefits of 'Multiculturalism,' the emphasis on foreign language training has been significantly diminished".

VI. What is known to be true?

A. 1. The core foundations upon which Multiculturalism rests are a rejection of reason as a eurocentric way of coming to conclusions (Helms, 1992), an anti-humanistic belief that humans of different races are fundamentally different from one another (Frisby, 1991), the dogma that all value systems are relative; that is, that no one culture may pass judgment on the beliefs of another (Fowers & Richardson, 1996), and therefore an inherent rejection of the reality of individuality.

2. In the face of this irrational lack of an ultimate criterion, even obtaining irrefutable evidence that a cycle of reactive racialism was being deliberately promoted and racial conflict in the United States was becoming a virtual certainty would threaten to leave the system as is, for, save governmental intervention the likes of which have not been seen since the McCarthy era, ethical paralysis would be the only acceptable alternative perceived by "cutting edge" educational planners. There is, however, an ultimate criterion which can be applied by educational administrators, and that has been accepted by the most Multicultural institution on the planet---the United Nations.

B. The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child

1. Within the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, in Article 24, it is stated that the state not only may, but is obligated to abolish traditional practices harmful to the health of human children (APA, 1991). The question can be legitimately asked in a rhetorical fashion; are war and ethnic conflicts harmful to innocent children? Do ethnic cleansing policies punish individual human beings, many of them children, on the basis of some assumed tribal membership? In essence, is a tribalisitic orientationone which fosters rather then discourages pathologically inaccurate interpretations of the motives of other unique human beings, and which is a necessary prerequisite for such conflict, a harmful cultural orientation to foster within Americas students?

2. In the realms of humanism, true justice, and individual free will, the exception which violates the rule is cause to invalidate the rule. Humans, each one only able to control his or her own actions, cannot be reasonably held accountable for the actions of others merely on the basis of some assumed racial group membership. If this is accepted, the unpleasant reality that a Multicultural rather then Universal Individualistic orientation in the worlds schools will lead to the harm of innocent children follows, because it cannot be denied that:

a; Increases in racial awareness inherently result in an increase of pathological transference tendencies by virtue of a necessary reduction in a humanistic (individualistic) orientation and world view.

b; Increases in pathological transference tendencies inherently increase the likelihood of misinterpreting the behaviors, facial expressions, and therefore intentions of a racial outgroup member, and promote instead seeing them through the filter of the racial stereotype being applied, be it positive or negative.

c; At the group level, the pathological transference effect increases intergroup bias via the deindividuation of outgroup members and the placing of an artificial emphasis upon group homogeneity (Gaertner, Mann, Murrell, & Dovidio, 1989).

d; When the prevalence of a racialized pathological transference exceeds a critical threshold within a given society characterized by multiple ethnic and racial groups, and when this transference is based upon negative rather then positive stereotypes of a given outgroup, a single publicized provocation by one irrational individual can trigger widespread intergroup conflict emanating from those infected by an over-identification with the racial or ethnic groups involved in said provocation. For example, the Rodney King riots quickly spread to several major cities including Atlanta, Seattle, and Madison, Wisconsin (Pope & Ross, 1992).

e; Such intergroup conflict, by virtue of its undeniably poor definitional boundaries and the salience of primitive physical features over individual cognitive differences, will inevitably impact upon children who are innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, as well as civilians who wish simply to live their lives in peace. Those citizens of the world who become trapped in these struggles pay a high price for the tribalism allowed to fester in their lands; a notion supported by the innocent multitudes who have died in such places as Rwanda, Somalia, Yugoslavia, and Ireland.

3. REFLECTING on the UN Charter and its stated belief that war starts in the minds of men, AWAIR that the beliefs of the US Supreme Court are that the emphasizing by the state of racial and ethnic group differences will promote social upheaval harmful to the republic, NOTING that many US educational institutions although representatives of the state appear to be encouraging such racial awareness, AND CONSIDERING that humanities understanding of its own kind has progressed to the point where irrational conflicts are not only predictable, but avoidable, THE ANSWER SEEMS CLEAR; leaders, caring citizens, and guardians of the United States should reject forcefully the false promises and primitive allure of Multiculturalism, and instead emphasize the libertarian spirit of Universal Individualism inherent in *American* Democracy. Only in this way can the ties which bind our nation be strengthened and our most prized possessions, peace and individual freedom, be ensured for future generations.


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Michael B. Sullivan is a 1994 graduate of Kent State University and is currently a graduate student in Psychology at Mississippi State University.