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America is divided. That much we know.
Threatened by the viral spread of disinformation and jeopardized by media business models that profit from polarization, the political middle ground is disappearing. Whether you’re a Democratic Party “socialist,” as 82 percent of Republicans characterized their counterparts in 2017, or a Republican Party “racist,” as 80 percent of Democrats reported in the same survey, members of both major political parties increasingly view each other as “not just worse for politics” but “downright evil.” The fear of our difference is great enough that some now prefer insurrection at the Capitol over compromise; even the democratic process has become a threat.
Should we be surprised? Framed by both major parties as a battle for the soul of America during the 2020 election, the current state of politics is a zero-sum game — a tribalist struggle for dominance which must conclude with ideological purity, where opposing voices are converted, silenced, or self-selectively isolated into communities of like-minded Americans.
But such an all-or-nothing perspective is untenable in democracy. What we need is to find a way to see the tension of difference not as a threat to be eliminated or avoided, but as a tool for revision and a source of creation. To do so, we must turn to those who have spent their entire lives learning to navigate and grow in the often-shunned space beyond rigid dichotomy.
We must turn to the mixed community.
Like America, I am divided. As a Filipina-American mestiza, my body is a battlefield: colonizer and colonized, immigrant and assimilator, privileged and disenfranchised. It’s a struggle that children of mixed heritage know all too well — the state of being simultaneously not enough of anything and too much of everything, with the awareness that we can always be denied entrance to either side. As Iranian-Japanese designer Nasrin Jafari notes, “Being Mixed often means you’re in-between, and therefore, unseen” — a phenomenon that occurs at Harvard, too, as multiracial students have described feeling lost among affinity groups. In America, mixedness has been outlawed through anti-miscegenation policies, erased through the pressure to choose a side, and cheapened into an “exotic” beauty standard which is often just another form of colorism. But this rejection of the mixed identity only confirms its value.
Mixedness is feared because it is revolutionary: It challenges the very notion of mutual exclusion on which our society is built, proving that the harmful dichotomies we cling to need not be the only way of life.
For those who have always had the luxury of belonging to something, there isn’t much reason to question the philosophy of mutual exclusion. Perilous as tribalism is, some may view it as preferable to the alternative: a world that is blurry and contradictory, steeped in the unpredictable tension of difference. But mixedness is not a danger to society — it is a danger to extremism. Indeed, being mixed confers an ability to bridge seemingly dichotomous spaces and to understand, if not embody, their coexistence. Fleeing towards the polar extremes seems less necessary when we recognize that there is even a middle ground to share.
This holds profound implications for our nation — not only in our capacity for empathy, but also in our pursuit of progress. In her essay “La conciencia de la mestiza,” Chicana theorist Gloria E. Anzaldúa states that mixedness is not “a balancing of opposing powers” but rather that “in attempting to work out a synthesis, the self has added a third element which is greater than the sum of its severed parts.” Strangely — or perhaps not — this sounds exactly like how our government is supposed to function. Democracy should not be a game of ideological domination, as we’re currently witnessing, but rather a synthesis of opposing viewpoints and the use of skeptical analysis in order to create optimal solutions. The future is built by breaking down paradigms, so difference can and must be productive. As impossible as it might seem right now, we’ve known this all along.
Maybe you’re a child of multiple races like me, or you identify with more than one culture or country. Either way, you have it too: this Mixed consciousness, born of the hyphenated space, which finds life rather than destruction in the tension of opposition. Maybe you’ve been made to feel ashamed of your blur and contradictions — but the secret is that you, in all of your multitudes, are exactly what the future needs.
America is divided, yes. But we, the mixed community, are living proof that it can still be whole.
Eleanor V. Wikstrom ’24, a Crimson Editorial comp director, lives in Adams House.
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