Pride (n): Why the Dictionary Still Matters

By Andrew Tsou

Say it loud! I’m white and I’m…not proud.

That’s not to say that I’m ashamed to be white, it’s just that I don’t see any reason to be proud about it. Similarly, I don’t take any pride in having brown hair. I’ve never seen “left-handed pride” posters, and to the best of my knowledge, there’s no “freckled power!” movement. So why is there a “gay pride” movement and a slew of events intended to promote diversity by focusing on issues that only represent differences to the most narrow-minded of people?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives one definition of “pride” as “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.” I can understand someone being proud of a 4.0 GPA or a piece of art that they created, but to be proud of a trait that one is born with is about as sensible as being proud of being born in a certain country……which reminds me, for as much as I am grateful and thankful to be a native-born citizen of the United States, I can’t honestly say that I’m proud to be an American. I’ve never fought in a war or run for elective office or done anything else that would even remotely allow me to consider myself “proud” in that sense.

Back to the dictionary, another definition of pride is “the best in a group or class.” Continuing to propagate the ideas of “black pride” or “gay pride” is just as foolishly divisive as any recognized racist speech or action.

Some have argued that events such as Black History Month (that would be this month, February, in case you weren’t paying attention) are key to “addressing the lengthening legacy of our racist past.” That’s all well and good, but continually placing an emphasis on skin color, even if it’s well-intentioned, is only going to continue to highlight a completely arbitrary and meaningless difference between people and actually foster the possibility of racism.

For example, President Obama is constantly referred to as America’s first African-American president, and it is unfortunate that this is destined to be a description with which he will be saddled with in the history books for some time to come. This description says nothing about his policies and focuses on an issue that has little to do with anything he may accomplish but rather on an insignificant aspect of his being (everyone knows that Abraham Lincoln was the tallest president, but that’s not what people remember him for). While constantly referring to president Obama as “African-American” is not in itself racist, it does continue to imply that there are significant differences between races, while in fact any differences that exist are purely sociological and only exaggerated by creations such as Black History Month. Indeed, as an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer recognized, separating “black history” from the rest of “American history” does all concerned a great disservice.

Yet another problem is that because Black History Month is more about celebrating “Black History” than correcting myths, it is less than useful as a means of fighting racism as an article published in USA Today points out.

Truly respecting diversity is a matter of respecting other people’s opinions and choices. A person chooses to subscribe to a certain religion or to promote a given political agenda. A person does not choose to be born with white or black skin, or to be born in one particular country, or to be attracted to men or women or both (or neither…). Instead of promoting “diversity” in meaningless arenas, we should spend our time recognizing where we truly differ and then working to find common ground from there. You can’t fight racism by continuing to assert that there are differences between races when it is assertions such as that that have led to the problems that we have now.

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