2 Do We Need a Common Identity? Do We Need a Common

Do We Need a Common Identity?
Do We Need a Common Identity?
August 1st, 2021
It has been argued many times over that people need a common identity. Some say that a common American identity is needed (D’Angelo & Douglas, 2017), and others, that a global “human” identity is what is needed (Som, 2019). Although the many benefits of having a common identity are alluring, such as increased environmentalism (Reese, 2015), it may not be the “fix all” that people are looking for. For example, having an common identity and the colorblindness that comes along with it, may make it more difficult to address the current racial and prejudicial issues that are still heating up the social climate today (Dovidio, Gaertner, Ufkes, Saguy, & Pearson, 2016).
The idea of the entire planet being united as one sounds like a utopia compared to the division that is occurring right now. The people are passionately divided by religion, race, gender, and political party among many other separating groups. Bringing the people together under a common identity would certainly promote pro-social behavior across races and borders (Kunst, Thomsen, Sam, & Berry, 2015). However, is it really practical to work towards that goal when there is so many unaddressed issues keeping humans divided today? Or, do humans as a collective have to walk before they can crawl?
Although most people can see and admire what a common identity has to offer, it is not what is needed at this time. The conflicts that are already in play will not have the resolution needed to move forward in that direction until they are first acknowledged and addressed. To offer an analogy, imagine one being told that they were lesser of a person due to their appearance. Imagine all the hurt and anger that comes with that. Then imagine the antagonist the next day expecting everything to be ok, because, it turns out everyone is equal after all. Without an apology or resolution between those individuals, it becomes difficult for them to authentically relate to each other as under one common identity. Now imagine this on an exponentially larger scale. This is why there is some work to be done before a common identity can happen in a healthy way.
In an article written by Dovidio et al., they discuss the paradox that is created when initiating a common identity between formerly separate groups (2016). They examine research on this subject and explain that members of advantaged groups usually want a single common identity and that minorities usually prefer a dual identity which in itself causes discontent across the groups. In addition Dovidio et al., stress the importance of different ethnicities and their ability to minimize subgroup identities and increase motivation across lower status group members (2016).
Counter Arguments
However, some may accurately argue that, although attaining a common identity among previously warring groups may be difficult, it is not impossible (Dovidio et al., 2016). Furthermore, they may argue that the rewards will be worth the trouble. After all, social justice, environmentalism, and people helping people sounds like a wonderful state to be in. And, joining groups into a common identity creates a new crosscutting social category that can possibly relieve the tension of the past disagreements (Blaine & Brenchley, 2018).
In fact, Kunst et al. studied how a common identity can influence majority group members to actively take part in the integration of minorities (2015). After a series of 5 different experiments, they were able to claim that a “common group identity positively predicts majority members’ efforts to integrate immigrants” (Kunst et al., 2015, p.1449). On top of that, Reese (2016) argues that a common human identity can aid in resolving arguments of morality and build a foundation for environmental justice principals. It seems that a common identity has to potential to encourage people to help each other and the environment.
This is all great. But it was never the value of common identity in question, but the practicality of it. Or, how ready people are for it. And to this one can pose the question, “can a common identity and all its benefits be forced upon people?” As mentioned earlier, most minority group members prefer to hold on to their previous habits. So what would be the consequences of trying to initiate an unwanted common identity? First off, yes a lucrative common identity can lesson prejudice and right after the consolidation of groups, but this may not last for as long as one might think (Dividio et al., 2016). Without proper resolution, common identity could still split and divide as the old habits of discrimination return. Moreover, if people are being led to believe that discrimination is no longer an issue, they may be less likely to continue the fight for equality and justice (Dividio et al., 2016)
In conclusion, there are many benefits to having a common identity. Though, the timing may not be right. The issues that are currently separating humans need to be addressed for a healthy union among the groups to occur. People need to see the diversity and get to know it before they can truly integrate it into their everyday lives. In other words, people to need to look at each other, take in the differences, acknowledge them, and then get over it! People have differences, but it’s time to let go of the belief that different is somehow threatening, less then, or more valuable then. When that happens then the differences are just differences and humans can comfortably move forward into a common identity.
D’Angelo, R., & Douglas, H. (2020). Taking sides: Clashing views in race and ethnicity. McGraw Hill Education.
Blaine, B. E., & McClure Brenchley, K. J. (2021). Understanding the psychology of diversity. SAGE.