Beating Racism with Individualism

The challenge for this generation is to keep our liberty. And the challenge is now upon us. – Peter Robinson

At Drake University I serve as a Peer Mentor/Academic Consultant.  Basically, my job is to act as a mentor for roughly 20 freshman (first-years, actually, because freshman is considered sexist and politically incorrect at Drake) in both their social and academic lives.  During one of our staff development sessions a board of professors discussed how to address the topic of diversity at Drake.  However, because diversity is a “buzz-word” that turns people off — which I agree with somewhat — they call it multicultural inclusion.  What the four professors asked us was this:  How can we beat prejudice at Drake and celebrate our multicultural environment at the same time?

Other PMACs chimed in and started to throw out their theories.  Don’t use statistics about race, some argued, because it sounds very impersonal and callous.  Others said to talk about the diverse interests that students have on campus; the high number of student organizations shows our diversity yet does not go near the touchy issue of race.  But I was not fully satisfied with these answers.  Finally, the libertarian in me burst and I raised my hand.  “What if we simply treated every individual as if they were unique?”  The professors stared back blankly.  It seemed like an Earth shattering concept to them.  I continued by saying, “In a large group diversity is inherent because all individuals are different.  Even within our Coalition of Black Students there is a large amount of diversity.  So, I think the only way to truly beat racism, sexism, or any type of ‘groupism’ at Drake is to treat individuals as, well, individuals.”

I then had a one-on-one conversation with a professor later and she asked me if I considered it unimportant to learn cultural norms and values of different peoples.  Of course, I think it is extremely important.  However, I added, if you meet one Jew and then another a minute later it would not be wise to assume they are both automatically alike.  They are individuals and should be treated as so.

And so I took two things away from this.  First, it is true: The only way to beat racism is to beat groupism and to start addressing people as individuals.  Emphasizing individuality is the only way to overcome prejudice.  Second, these types of situations are great ways to introduce pro-liberty philosophy to people.  Although it may not be an in-depth discussion of liberty, it is a nice introduction.  Maybe some of my peers will look at it differently.  Whenever you get the opportunity, offer a liberty angled argument; it might make a difference.

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