Now, I’ve been around white people all my life. One might even say that I am a white person, having lived among them for so long. So I speak with some authority. But I have never known them to all act a certain way, think a certain way, be from the same background, follow the same religious expression, have the same political opinions, have the same lifestyle, believe in the same set of moral values, etc. Let me say something earth shakingly profound. Brace yourself. White people are as variable as any other group of people. In fact, cultural variability is quite extensive among white people. Think about the many groups that came to our shores. To give you an idea of the variability of white people, I’ll list some of the groups that settled our melting pot of a nation. We were settled by Pilgrims (separatists), Puritans (Protestant non-separatists), Quakers (personal experience oriented separatists), Jews, Catholics, Mennonites, Hutterites, Moravians, etc., etc. If you don’t think their differences are very profound, just try to get them into a conversation about the “right way to think or live.” You may end up with a situation like Thoreau’s “Battle of the Ants” in Walden where he related a fierce battle between red ants and black ants that he observed one day.
Although religious freedom was the predominant motivation for many who came to America in the colonial era, there were many that came here for other reasons, such as greater opportunity for success and the easy availability of land. So, you can’t even say that our early white settlers were homogeneous. Additionally, these people came from very different nations and cultural settings. If you’ve ever traveled to numerous countries like we have, you know just how different the cultures of these various nations are with different architecture, customs, laws, rules for social interaction, foods, etc. So, you can imagine the incredible variability of the early settlers of our nation, coming from those same nations , a few of which I’ll recount here: France, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, etc., etc. Moreover, once all these groups arrived here, they settled in different regions, developing their own character, culture, or flair over time that was significantly different from other regions of the country.
It should go without saying that there is infinite variability among any racial, ethnic, regional, religious, or cultural group, but I’ve found from living long enough that people have a tendency to be prejudiced, wanting to take shortcuts in logic or to think that their own group is special and better than all the others. This is why they come up with sweeping observations about groups that they feel superior to or do not approve of. You know this type thinking is going on when people say things like, “You know how those Asians are,” or “That’s so typical of those black people” or “all teenagers are that way” or even “everybody in that town or that area is like that.” Such sweeping conclusions are absurd, taking a few features or habits that may be slightly based in reality and turning them into a caricature or stereotype of the group that has no correspondence with reality. People are always infinitely variable within any demographic group.
The immaturity and absurdity of this prejudiced thinking is captured humorously in the children’s book, The Sneetches, by Dr. Suess. In this amusing tale, there are creatures of the in group and the out group that continuously try to accentuate their differences and make themselves special in relation to the other group. At the beginning, they are distinguished by the outwardly visible presence or absence of a green star on their abdomen. One day, a crafty entrepreneur recognizes the foolish prejudices of both groups and exploits those prejudices for monetary gain by, first putting stars on the non-star Sneetches so that they can believe they are just as good as the other group, then removing stars in the supposedly superior group that afterwards wanted to once again be special. This set off a series of taking off and putting on the stars, repeatedly applying and removing, until chaos ensues. In the midst of the chaos, it occurs to one of the participants that there is ultimately no difference between the two groups. Inside, they are all the same, sharing in the same basic human emotions, desires, strengths, needs, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, etc., no one better than another.
So such thinking is incorrect regardless of what group you observe. Therefore, there is no “white group” of which you can make sweeping observations or broad conclusions. There’s no significant homogeneity. There’s no “white people club” complete with a secret handshake. The closest we ever came to having a “white people club” was when the KKK was so active primarily in the early 20th century. But even in their heyday, the KKK could not get the majority of white people to join their ranks and subscribe to their vile beliefs. Despite our nation’s inconsistent record on human rights, we have always strived to reach those lofty values that we established at our founding. In setting up those values, we initiated a unique American culture that both embraces the common bond that we share in humane, Christian values, and embraces the incredible differences and variableness that we find in each other, not just among white people, but also among all the many other ethnic, racial, and religious groups that have set foot on our favored shores. Our country is a rare experiment in history. We have unprecedented freedoms and successes. The question still remains of whether we can keep our republic.