Sunday, May 01, 2005

Johnnella E. Butler: What is an American?

Butler, Johnnella E. “Reflections on Borderlands and the Color Line.” Power, Race, and Gender in Academe. eds. Shirley Geok-Lin Lim and Maria Herrera-Sobek. NY: The MLA, 2000: 8-31.

What is an American? What are new frameworks for community identity? How can the larger narrative for an inclusive civic culture and democracy be forged? . . . How do we encourage an American consciousness encompassing a cooperative, relational pluralism that connects, matrixlike, these merged entities with a mestiza consciousness to result in the American, the United States citizen, the America that Tocqueville projected, without the “tyranny of the majority” and binary individualism at the expense of community? … [How do we develop] ways of perceiving the relationships between and among people, our pasts, our pasts’ legacies, our present lives and struggles, our environments, disciplines, and texts. … How do we shape policies to encourage the best in human beings? How do we utilize scientific discovery and progress and technological advancement to the benefit of all human beings and our environment? How do we use our positions [of power] … to help the greatest number of [persons] become human beings who care about one another and their environment? How can we reveal the unity in diversity, the sameness in difference, and how can we engage (23) long-term intractable differences and conflicts in ways productive to humans and not necessarily with the goal of winning and defeating? How can we live together with different moral positions without hatred, violence, or imposition and without permissiveness and amorality? How can we begin to understand that my freedom ends where your denial of freedom begins? Can we reconcile individualism with community and individual needs and desires with community needs and desires? (24)

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