Exclusive to humanity alone is the privilege of creative autonomy.
The immediate task for an empowered culture, or subgroup sharing at least one defining ideological facet, in this pursuit of species solidarity is one well documented in human literature the world over. I recognize that not every culture is or has been empowered to choose who they considered equals, but we are trying to establish a context within which we can move forward, and the key is not the map. As has ever been the case, the internalization of another as an equal is easiest accomplished by the loving of an other, as Romeo and Juliet demonstrate in perpetuity, and reminiscent to the neighborly advice given by a guy some people nailed to a tree for trying to get people to just get along, despite their relative social or racial orientations. The necessary developmental task to concretize the ideological humanism shared by many post-modern inheritors of the Enlightenment into emotional humanism is the experience of love for individuals of diverse ideological constellations. There has been a fair amount of study on the breadth importance of love in establishing the human connection, given magnificent treatment in A General Theory of Love (2008).
Here is a problem in trying to nail down a distinct American identity. There are at least four competing ideologies fighting for prominence in the paradigm of Euro-descended US citizens. There is the western academic tradition of human determinism, the Judeo-Christian concept of inclusive equality, the inherent capitalist implication of upward mobility, and the vague association with the ethnic point of origin. There are, of course, other premises built into each of those different ideologies, but I think that serves to illustrate the difficulty of trying to ascertain what combination of those different influences comprises 'whiteness', or 'American'.
What we really need to deal with is the Paragon-Pariah Paradox as given sharp relief in the person of Thomas Jefferson: how does a visionary sculptor of the free world come to think owning slaves is acceptable? It is difficult to accept the ideology of humanism, that peculiar blend of human determinism, inclusive equality, and upward mobility, when represented by such hypocritical paragons. One is reminded of Ghandi's objection to Christianity, as contrasted with Russell's. If one is willing to admit the admirability of those individual premises, then the problem has to be with how one determined who qualified for the designation of 'human'. Let us use this as an opportunity to exercise our ideological plasticity and consider: what blinded the western tradition of humanism, and does that historical blindness undermine the validity of the premises upon which it is founded?
In order to identify where this divergence between the ideology of humanism and the actuality of it occurred, one might trace the development of this concept and identify the times it had been thwarted in relation to the dominant ideology. First in the Ancient Greek philosophical tradition, the loose framework of humanism gave birth to democracy, as is always the case, as determinism and freedom have ever given birth to each other (May, as cited in Engler, 1999). How where did this humanism derail? Alexander rode roughshod over the world from this position of informational/technological privilege in a romantic spirit of ethnocentric imperialism, inherited by Rome. Flares of renaissance across Europe, mostly in Italy, stirred to humanist fruition in the Enlightenment, and the casting off of the shackles of the tyrannical nobility. What aborted this progressive movement this time? Again, the familiar Romanticism which matured into the oppressive nationalism. In each case when the equality of humanity grew in social popularity, the insistence upon the primacy of the inherited associations of the past twisted the positive momentum to roll right over whoever does not qualify as the in-group.
How does something as healthy as an appreciation for one's cultural heritage consistently pervert the equally healthy desire to be as much as one can be, either on the individual or societal level? Western academic tradition again offers an explanation, in the terms of brutal and ignorant psychological experiments designed to examine this exact phenomenon: Brown/Blue eyes, Robber's Cave, Stanford Prison... The conclusion of these explorations of the darkest corners of the human psyche was that only prerequisite premise for a human to develop a feeling of superiority is the assertion of difference.
Much in the same way that a person has to find a personal balance between their individualization and their collective identification, so too does society need to balance this validation of our multiple cultures’ differences with recognition of the inescapable reality of the larger inclusive collective that is the human species. Insisting upon the distinction of past circumstance is a jarring discontinuity in the pursuit of species-wide (speçial?) equanimity, as reflected by Olympic athletes struggling to reconcile the romantic Nationalism inherent in the competition with the inclusive humanity reflected in the message, granted, crafted from the same western academic tradition. It seems demeaning to the autonomy of choice to value the accident of birth associations over the associations chosen with informed volition.
This brings to a point the difficulty in the transition I experience as a white American male. From the position of the dominant hegemonic monoculture, I inherited a lot of investigation about the nature of our experience, which was labeled the study of the human experience. Upon realizing that my definition of humanity needed to expand to include other people, my ideological framework provided me with few choices as to how to adapt. The western academic tradition's investigations had revealed that human beings were rather incredible, and I enjoy identifying with that. If other people are human as well, then it was either include them in my understanding of humanity, expanding the definition to include all their idiosyncrasies, or create a new, smaller identification class labeled 'white' or ‘American’. I opt for the former, which, again, involves only the active experience of loving people from different demographics to establish a broader range of identification. That is to say, because the ideology of universal humanism existed on a conceptual level in the western academic tradition, the inclusive nature of the ideology being an intentional cultivation in response to the romantic oppression in the shadows of which this country was conceived, the easiest experiential path for me was a concretizing of that concept by the experience of love for people of disparate ideological, ethnic, gender/sexual, religious, and socioeconomic contexts. The multicultural romanticism en vogue in popular media and in the academic culture paint this humanism with the condescending brush of internalized racism, termed colorblindness (Sue & Sue, 2013), which I would caution is but the latest iteration of an ideological struggle that we should admit if we hope to avoid repeating the cycle.