I am a brown-skinned woman and I believe in integration. Now.
Although the term “integration” is closely linked with our country’s sad story of forced separatism, its meaning moves. I believe that while integration should not mean killing Mom and Pop shops or cynically shutting down educational institutions that filled the void of segregation, it does mean that we all need to step away from fear and into other realities, where people who are different from us have thoughts and ideas that will inject new meaning into our lives.
I believe that I have a personal responsibility to practice integration. I have had many opportunities to segregate myself based on race, religion or national origin. I have always chosen otherwise. I believe that my relationships are based on deeper meaning than the color of my friends’ skin or religious affiliation.
Without integration, I would not have enjoyed a seder on Madison Avenue or eaten spicy dumplings in Chinatown. I could not have attended Yale College or Columbia Law School. I may never have studied law at the Sorbonne or worked in venerable New York institutions. I could not have lived in the East Village with a Polish landlord or in Z-rich with a Swiss friend. In sum, without integration, I would not be who I am. And without me, you would not be who you are.
I believe that integration will help us to overcome a painful past. I am reminded of Plessy v. Ferguson, of course, but most strikingly of Korematsu, the Supreme Court decision allowing the continued internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, allegedly to protect other citizens from potential traitors. I believe that our citizens need integration today to avoid conflating good and evil with Christian and Muslim or American and Middle Eastern. With integration, it is more difficult to declare “You’re either for us or against us.”
I believe that following The Golden Rule of treating others as you wish to be treated integrates.
I believe that we should always choose integration, even when it is difficult.
I believe that in order to accept others as human beings with beating hearts, with blood coursing through their veins and thoughts and ideas to share, integration must continue within and outside of this country. I believe that with integration, our future is more secure than if we behave like boxers in a ring, fighting a round, retreating to the corners and bouncing back to fight another round until one of us is knocked down and dragged off, bitten in the ear or something equally ludicrous.
I do not favor integration “with all deliberate speed” as famously and vaguely stated in Brown v. Board of Education. I believe in integration today. Tomorrow. Forever. This I believe.
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