Yesterday, I brought up the cases of 1) the U.S. Army allowing a Sikh to bypass its otherwise rigid rules by wearing a turban and a full beard, and 2) its decision to let 16 black female West Point recruits slide without so much as a slap on the wrist for posing in uniform with their fists raised in the air like they were Black Panthers instead of U.S. military personnel.
In that blog post, I only focused on the military reasons why giving minorities special treatment is a really bad idea. In today’s follow-up, let’s talk about an additional societal objection.
Two days ago, I read a really interesting line in The War of 1812: Writings From America’s Second War of Independence, one of my research books for my second Maiden America sequel.
A compilation of first-hand American, British, Native American and Canadian accounts of various military maneuvers, The War of 1812 includes Washington Irving’s “Biographical Memoir of Commodore Perry,” the American naval commander who claimed an underdog victory against the British on Lake Eerie.
In first laying out America’s reasons for declaring war, Irving makes some thought-provoking philosophical statements, such as the following:
“There is an obsequious deference in the minds of too many of our countrymen towards Great Britain, that not only impairs the independence of the national character, but defeats the very object that they would attain. They would make any sacrifices to maintain a precarious, and patched up, and humiliating connexion with her; but they may rest assured that the good opinion of Great Britain was never gained by servile acquiescence; she never will think the better of a people for thinking despicably of themselves.”
Irving may have written that 200 years ago about a completely different conflict, but his words ring true today about America’s increasingly violent racial divide. We could easily substitute “American whites” and “American minorities” for America and Great Britain in that last section:
White Americans “may rest assured that the good opinion of” American minorities “was never gained by servile acquiescence;” American minorities “never will think the better of” white Americans “for thinking despicably of themselves.”
That’s what this comes down to: one group kissing up to another to make itself feel better. And while brownnosing might accomplish short-term goals, what lasting good does it do?
If a white American cadet told the Army he wanted to wear a beard for any reason, religious or otherwise, he’d be told to shape up or ship out. And if 16 white female American recruits posed in uniform on base with, say, the Confederate flag, they’d be reprimanded in a heartbeat.
Telling American minorities they can break the rules because we really want them to like us isn’t going to bring about mutual respect. How can it when neither side is really respecting itself?