In this episode I reflect on a conversation Corey DeVos and I had with African American scholar Greg Thomas, where we explored what a more integral approach to race relations might look like. Greg is influenced by his mentor, Albert Murray, who, writing in the 60’s challenged the postmodern narrative that reduced race (and much of human relations in general) to hard constructs of victim and oppressor.
A more adequate view includes human interiority, the making of meaning, and the lived experience of people who are fully inhabiting their lives and culture. It includes a connection to the land and all the flavors of heritage that make up what Murray called the Omni-Americans, who have been given the best of culture from all times and places.
I further consider these insights in light of a column, “This American Land”, written by David Brooks and published in the New York Times a few months ago. In it Brooks seeks to soothe our cultural polarization by finding a common identity in the American land. He offers three character types drawn from the ways Americans have related to our nation’s natural bounty: the Steward, the Pioneer and the Elevated Spirit. Each offers us a piece of what is needed to “create a revival of values, fraternity and a binding American story.”
The postmodern critique of Brooks’ thesis is that while these archetypes may provide a national ethos for white people, they do not capture the experience of America’s oppressed minorities. I propose that an emerging integral view can include the truth of both perspectives, and thus offer a larger ethos for us all.