“We are more alike than we are unalike…

4 Oct

… But the way we are unalike matters.”

Gary Younge’s newest book Who are we – And should it matter in the 21st Century discusses the problematic nature of the labels of race, religion and gender. He draws on case studies from around the globe to highlight the notion that our individual identities are too often decided by who is judging or asking, when it is our experiences as humans that should shape who we really are, and instead of finding a common higher ground to overcome the issues that come hand in hand with identity, our society is becoming increasingly divided. As the discourse of national borders has amplified, the result has been an increase in nationalism worldwide, and instead of border relations becoming friendlier, they have grown increasingly hostile with groups retreating into divided camps.

Younge’s own experiences with identity, life as a black man of Barbadian heritage growing up in the UK, and various encounters in through Sudan, Paris, the former Soviet Union, and more recently, Brooklyn, has taught him that:

“Identities are about how we think about ourselves in relations to others. But those thoughts do not come out of a clear blue sky. Identities are rooted in material circumstances. In certain circumstances, whether you are British, black, gay, Iraqi, Hindu or female can be the difference between life and death, poverty and wealth, citizenship and statelessness. Power, resources, and opportunity are in play in how we choose to understand (or misunderstand) the value of ourselves and others.”

Who are we – And should it matter in the 21st Century, illuminates fact that how we define ourselves affects every part of our lives, and that if we really want to reach a common humanism, we must fight for it.

“When the gentile condemns anti-Semitism, the white challenges racism or the citizen takes on xenophobia, the lift the sense of siege on ‘the other’, creating possibilities for the Jew, black, or foreigner to denounce the dupe and the demagogue in their own community.”

Younge describes the dilemma American census takers face with their identity, and how ones concept of their self is constantly being questioned. Since identity is fluid and constantly evolving, the rigid and certain stereotypes that ‘mixed’ or ‘other’ box checkers face further aggravate the ‘equal opportunities’ that supposedly provided to all. Gary states that the census is a way to “bring order to the chaos” and while “those boxes are not meant to make us feel good, they give us a sense of what’s going on.”

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One Response to ““We are more alike than we are unalike…”

  1. Alessandro d'Ansembourg October 11, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    LOVE the first pic!!

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