Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lifestyle More Important than Race

Lifestyle Matters,

More than Race, Ethnicity, or Economic Class!

Offie C. Wortham, PhD

     As obvious as the above title may seem, this truth is generally denied or beyond the comprehension of the general public. People have been categorized or generalized by race or ethnicity for centuries with the erroneous assumption that these vague and unclear classifications would yield correct and meaningful information to formulate successful policies and programs to solve a multitude of social and political problems.

     There are certain standards and patterns of behavior in our society that are admired and respected. There are others that are not. These patterns cut across lines of socio-economic class and even education. Even among the least educated and less affluent there is an awareness of when a person “has no class.” The lifestyle of an individual is a more accurate indicator of the values, morals, ethics and even problems of an individual than their race or ethnicity.

     Adults in the past were miss-educated to believe that various ethnic groups were either inferior or superior intellectually and morally. This is what we call racism. Certain aspects of a group’s culture; their music, their diet, their religion, their speech, their dress, the way they walked, and even their art, were deemed inferior and sometimes almost sub-human.

     The group in power tends to set the standards of what is considered civilized or uncivilized behavior. Whatever they do and like is correct, and everyone else is lacking in terms of proper conduct. (If the minority groups had been in power, the classifications would have been reversed, and the lifestyles of the dominant group would have been labeled as inferior and ignorant.) In some societies people are even killed or put in prison for simply violating manmade social norms. Drinking alcohol was once a crime in the United States! So was gambling, fornication, not believing in a God, homosexuality, and interracial marriages! Today, this lack of tolerance for variations in behavior includes the current laws against the use of certain drugs, and the persistent belief that time in prison improves human behavior.

     Conforming to the lifestyle of the group in power usually assures individuals of more acceptance and less discrimination. People like to associate with people who are as much like them as possible. We feel more comfortable with those who share a common language, religion, culture, and worldview. On the one hand we preach diversity, but in reality, we want to be with people who are just like us. This could be intellectually, spiritually, or who dress as we do, like the same past-times or hobbies, sports, music, or even art.

     The Obama phenomena can be understood better if we view his acceptance as an acceptance of a preferred lifestyle. Highly educated, financially successful, articulate, clean-cut and “nice looking,” moderate in his politics, somewhat religious, and a good family man. This is the perfect image America wants to project to the world, and to itself. In the past, his color and his ethnicity simply meant that he was a member of a race that was generally uneducated, poor, inarticulate, unattractive, a follower of a primitive and emotional religion, and either born out of wedlock, or the unmarried parents of children being raised in poverty and ignorance. Obama transcended the racial issue by having the perfect lifestyle that we all desire! This far over-shadowed his mixed ancestry. His equally intelligent and successful wife even gave up her $250,000 a year job to be at his side as the First Lady! Is there any woman in America, of any color, that cannot fanaticize about having such a choice?

     My point here is that we reject certain groups or individuals because of their speech, their mannerisms, their behavior, their lack of interest in education, and their appearance. The amount of money they make does not move them up one notch in social acceptance, as long as they continue to act like immoral and ignorant clowns. We have always discriminated by lifestyle throughout history. Only recently have we become confused and introduced race or ethnicity as primary factors in determining human behavior, and forgot that lifestyle is really much more important than race.

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