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Proving Your Worth

Homeland Is Emersion Into A Way Of Life

Proving Your Worth. This becomes the banner waved by minorities who feel a need to impress others. Look at our "A" grades. Look how much we earn. Look how we outwork everybody else. When others are relaxing, we are studying to prove our worth. To win the academic contests, to run the fastest and jump the highest. SAT outstanding. Number of acceptances at Ivy League schools.

How many awards, ribbons and medals are enough? How many degrees are enough? How much money is enough? How much is enough to fit in? There is NO amount when birthright is the only criterial for total acceptance.

I grew up in a military family and experienced varied lifestyles in multiple locations. Beginning on a rural farm in the south, to military bases in the south, northeast and north central US and a Base on an Atlantic Ocean island. But, like other military children, there was no emersion within any one place or people. This breeds diversity of lifestyles but identity demands a structured set of known, shared standards as lifestyle. It's learning childhood games, eating traditional foods, doing what we do Sunday through Saturday. I's knowing who to avoid and who to embrace, what we are supposed to believe and how we are supposed to act. Otherwise, you cannot totally fit in. You are a hybrid.

I often wondered why I felt socially isolated even within my group, not knowing what they knew. I felt set aside, distinct, with a history of temporary friends and temporary geographic residences. I could not tell the history of any town or locate merchant stores, recreation locations or name area schools. Knowing these things is homeland.

What a difference it made as I listened to proud Durhamites reminisce about the people they grew with, the places they hung out, what they did on a Saturday afternoon, and the community leaders known to all. They can tell you who lived on a street house by house over decades. They call it community. They owned their community from the Black Medical clinic, the Black Library, their favorite fish market and the funeral homes their family always patronize.

Knowing is fitting in. If you move to Philadelphia, you try to establish home there, but you know that “down home” is the answer given when asked where you are from. Identity is essential for defining ourselves. We seek the security that comes from fitting in, a comfort level that knows us. Like in the old days when an elder asked your last name. On giving it, they would nod and say, yes I know your people. That’s all they needed to size you up fairly or not.

Never quite fitting in is problematic. Nobody wants to feel like a hybrid, no matter how we worship diversity. If you are the person on the outside looking in, praising you differences only makes you “exotic” and a not one of us.

How does this impact race relations? We are all members of in groups and out groups. We are all trying to fit in. Out group members work very hard to measure up. They are constantly showing how outstanding they are academically, morally or showing their eagerness to serve their nation. First generation offspring of immigrants want to be President. But, as in the Christian faith, salvation cannot be earned by works, neither can admission as equals into socially structured societies.

What happens when out group members “think” that they fit in with the dominant identity group? They may even have a claim due to their lengthy history in the homeland and their history of achievement, of giving back. By rights, law and lineage they are due equality and entitled to acceptability more than some who came after them. And yet, they are not fully accepted.

I love pictures of animals used to teach humans. We see natural enemy animals getting along. While comical, it also encourages us to be hopeful. I saw a picture of two dogs and a kitten standing together in a posture that spoke about their bonded relationship, assuming the same body stature. The caption read, the kitten thinks it is like the dogs. Relationships can deceive. We may intermarry, blend families, adopt children of other races and promote diversity. But until the element of total emersion is addressed, we maintain closed societies in our hearts and practices.

Finding solutions to race and ethnic group interactions around the globe begins with understanding Homeland. Where were you planted by your ethnic group origins? Who are you today? Where is your true homeland of the heart where “everybody knows your name?” Does cross breeding, cross teachings, crossing cultural boundaries change who you are? Does it distance you from fitting in at home as well as in the foreign territory?

Homeland is fitting into your known group in your known place. Coming home.

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