History of Identity: Our Insecurities and Need to Belong

30 01 2008

(from discussion at Unity-n-Diversity about homeschooling identity, as individuals and competing groups, as religious and secular, alike and different, allies and enemies.)


PBS just concluded a new series about the Jewish experience in America.

I was struck by the segment on how Black leaders and Jewish leaders fell out with each other in the civil rights movement, not because anyone was “wrong” or because they wanted to, but because what they really were fighting for was the right to define themselves (sound familiar?) and blacks needed to oust the more culturally assimilated Jews and run things themselves, to be politically clear of their own different and distinct identity.

Yes, it was strategically counterproductive to social acceptance by the larger community and even contradictory to the larger principle they supposedly shared, and unfair, unwarranted, unseemly to reject these allies who had worked so hard and suffered so much — but according to this account, it was also inevitable.

Another connection I made was to “defining” and leading the women’s movement. Favorite Daughter who self-studied American feminism, describes for example the same complicated split into competing (often bitter) camps between the establishment Carrie Chapman Catt and the more radical, militant Alice Paul.

But surely there’s hope for homeschooling even in that.
I found this summary sketched out online:

NWP versus NAWSA:
Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party emphasized working for a federal constitutional amendment for suffrage. Their position was at odds with the position of the NAWSA, headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, which was to work state-by-state as well as at the federal level.

NWP and NAWSA Synergy:
Despite the often strong acrimony between the National Woman’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, it’s probably fair to say (in retrospect) that the two groups’ tactics complemented each other: the NAWSA’s taking more deliberate action to win suffrage in elections meant that more politicians at the federal level had a stake in keeping women voters happy, and the NWP’s militant stands kept the issue at the forefront of the political world.

Actually the whole PBS series was about “identity” and how different American Jews in different places and times, struggled to both assimilate and advance, AND honor and preserve their own distinct heritage in their own families and neighborhoods, from language to education and music to friends and marriage, food, dress, hairstyles. [To literal names.]
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