Americans love surveys. And statistics. However, one thing they like more than both surveys and statistics is subdividing these surveys and statistics into small groups so specific it seems as if only a minute majority of the world population would fit into said category. Want to know about sleeping habits? How about the sleeping habits of females? How about the sleeping habits of females over the age of 50? How about the sleeping habits of females over the age of 50 from Pennsylvania? And you know what, why not: How about the sleeping habits of females over the age of 50 from Pennsylvania who own a golden retriever named Max? This increasing subdivision brings order through thorough analysis, each subcategory more specific than the next. The information: demographically organized, racially filed, sexually systematized.
These subgroups can be helpful to statisticians, politicians, and professionals alike, providing details on targeted audiences. Yet, when does this categorization become extreme? When does it do more harm than good? In a nation that still struggles with racism and gender inequality, should we constantly think of ourselves as small subgroups that need to be differentiated? Surveys that have nothing to do with gender have no need to break down the statistics into male and female subcategories. Surveys that have nothing to do with race have no need to break down the statistics into black and white subcategories. Why not view the population as a whole? Why not view individuals as equals? Subcategorizing is merely telling us that we’re different, that we’re not part of the conglomerate population, that we’re seen as divisible, and that we can in fact be further removed from our peers.
Before I’m called unsympathetic or ignorant, I understand that minorities must be represented. I understand that as a growing nation we must fight to provide voices to those who often lack their own. I will be the first to say our world sees “different” as an ailment rather than an empowerment. I hope to see a day that skin color, sexual orientation, and gender are not issues. However I believe that, to a certain extent, the constant subcategorizing that comes with information analysis is putting social acceptance in jeopardy. It’s important that we begin to think of ourselves as a general, homologous population. We must think of our nation as consisting of vastly unique individuals that fit together to form one. We must think of our country, and our world, as a sort of puzzle, where each piece is beautifully different and undoubtedly irreplaceable, but when combined, leave one whole picture, one unified nation, and one cohesive society.
I believe that subcategorizing has its place and that minorities cannot be ignored. But I also believe that ignoring race, gender, religion, and sexual preference may bring progress, in a sort of backwards way. It’s not a “don’t ask; don’t tell” approach, but rather a “don’t care; doesn’t define you” belief. We must take pride in who we are as individuals, but we must not begin to believe one’s race dictates character, that one’s gender determines accomplishments, or that one’s sexual orientation drives interests. We must not begin to believe we are analyzable and explainable simply based on variables and characteristics that we neither chose nor control. We must not begin to believe that constant differentiation and repeated removal from the population will bring social progress. Instead, we must begin to think of ourselves as indivisible and irremovable, as individuals making up a united population.