By Cassandra Cronin
The idea of a global identity, a concept we discussed in Eugenia Manwelyan’s lecture on “Violence, Peace, and Technologies of Belonging,” is frightening for me. As an Afro-Dominican, I understand that identity is extremely political. I also believe that adopting a global identity would not only be inadequate in establishing a peaceful world, it would also do more harm than good. I would rather live in a world that celebrates cultural and historical differences than taking the easy way out and eradicating everything that makes humans special and different.
Take the ethnic cleansing occurring in the Dominican Republic—a conflict largely driven by issues of identity. Although Haiti and the Dominican Republic share similar histories regarding colonization, each adopted very different identities regarding their blackness. Haitians celebrate their African roots, and honor being the distant relatives of those who successfully fought off their colonizers. On the other hand, Dominicans cling on to their indigenous Taíno and European roots as a way to deny that over 90% of the island has black ancestry. This means that many Dominicans view blackness as an attack on their indigenous-European identity—a point of view encouraged by the Dominican government who uses antihaitianismo (anti-Haitian sentiments rooted in anti-blackness) as a strategy to protect the dominicanidad, or the pure Dominican nationality, of the nation. Would this conflict end if both sides adopted a shared global identity? No. It would still fail to address the roots of the conflict that stem from the two countries’ violent history of colonization, war, and genocide.
I also have many other concerns regarding a global identity. Who would set the terms of this global identity, what would that process look like, and what would we have to give up in order to establish that global identity? Think about how the U.S. went from being powerless British colonies to a global superpower with a strong national identity. First, the founding fathers were a select few who created laws to keep wealthy, educated white men in power, but black people and other marginalized groups powerless. Second, the U.S. enslaved black people (who were responsible for establishing the American economy), and killed and stole land from various groups in order to become a bigger country with more resources. These marginalized groups had few choices: flee the violence, die fighting against the U.S., or assimilate into American culture.
What about American immigration policies, which have disproportionately favored white Europeans over black and brown people? We can see this happening now clearer than ever in the Trump administration’s policies concerning the situation on the southern border. Denying asylum for people fleeing violence, separating parents from their children, and detaining American citizens and veterans who “look” like they’re undocumented (whatever that means) are all strategies used by the Trump administration to protect their definition of the American identity (at least one that is white and homogeneous). Would adopting a global identity be a key step in resolving immigration issues on the U.S.? No. It would give the Trump administration power to erase marginalized groups and their culture from the picture.