Approximately 126,000 people live in the 617 square mile patch called Wood County, Ohio. Wood County is diverse because it is a blend of suburban (Toledo metro area), small village and rural residents. It is not so diverse because more than 92% of the residents are Caucasians. The whiteness of Wood County is even starker when one considers that many of the minority residents are affiliated with Bowling Green State University in the county seat of Bowling Green. BGSU is home to nearly 18,000 students plus the staff and faculty. One could surmise that the overwhelming majority of racial or ethnic minorities are clustered near the University campus. The Wood County environment and its demographics provide an interesting laboratory for observing social patterns and preferences.
One of the progressive trends of recent decades has been the promotion of “multiculturalism” as the ideal result of discrimination-free cohabitation. Like most progressive pipe dreams it is seriously flawed and unattainable. Our human nature is to seek out others whom we know and are similar to us. Our historic nature is to distrust and suspect the aliens. That’s a defense mechanism that was developed by our predecessors to ensure the survival of the tribe or the village. For those of you who may be devoted to Darwinian Theory this explains why dogs and cats are generally hostile to one another. Certainly there are exceptions but generally when cats encounter dogs, they run, and the canine obliges by chasing the fickle feline. Multicultural love fests cannot be effectively enacted by government fiat. Cross-cultural, inter-racial or socially different relationships must be cultivated on a one-to-one basis.
For most people the distrust of “them” is a dominant perspective until one encounters one of “them” personally. The outcome of the interaction will often determine if the stereotypical view is reinforced or eroded. Social sciences have spent enormous sums and massive amounts of time attempting to quantify and identify group attitudes and behaviors regarding other groups, but it does not take a village to tear down the walls of suspicion. It requires one or more individuals whose experience trumps the tribal myths. This is a long preamble into my observations about lily-white rural Wood County.
There are several candidates running in the Primary Election for the opportunity to serve as a Wood County Commissioner. It is common for rural or suburban commissioner candidates in Ohio to rely on yard signs as a primary medium for promoting their candidacies. As one travels throughout the county, one will find signs of distinguishable colors promoting each of the various candidates. One factor soon becomes apparent, however. While most of the candidates do have signs in nearly every sector of the county, one can determine their “home” area by noting the density of their signs. The closer to their homes the more signs you will find promoting their candidacies. Apparently trust and personal neighborly relationships are more readily acquired closer to home. The unequal distribution of campaign signs does not signal discriminatory, racist or exclusionary intent. On the contrary the sign distribution patterns identify geographic areas where the candidates are known and supported. The people who display the yard signs either know the candidate or are familiar with her or his reputation sufficiently to publicly support their efforts to gain office. Familiarity and comfort are even more desirable in everyday living than in political contests. Exclusion and suspicion are common and natural among homogeneous groups. They are not diseases or aberrations, and should not be viewed as something to be corrected. If a broader, more inclusive community is to emerge, it will be because individuals have engaged members of other groups and the results were positive.
No government-sponsored “kumbaya” movement or repressive “hate crimes” legislation will overcome the natural reluctance among people to embrace the outsider or someone who is different. Prejudice, suspicion and distrust are normal. Tribal survival relied on them. In my view it is acceptable for the social sciences to attempt to measure attitudes and perceptions that affect group attitudes, but when the statistically-driven or qualitative analysts seek to transform natural human behavior through artificial constructs, rules, regulations or laws, they overstep their expertise and their authority. Prejudice and hate should not be punishable activities because they are natural and defensive. If someone is killed, harmed or suffers property damage because of the actions of a bigot, the penalties should be severe….not because of bigotry or prejudice…but because of the actual harm or damage.
Even in a community like Wood County with its 90plus percentage of Caucasians there are prejudices and preferences. When one supports a candidate of one’s own community while opposing a challenger from across the county, the typical and politically-correct arguments of the progressive statist government disintegrate. Prejudice is normal and unavoidable. If it leads to death, harm or damage, it should be punished but otherwise ignored.
Now….ask an all-embracing, love-the-world progressive what her or his ‘feelings” are about pro-lifers, Tea Party members or any small-government constitutionalist. Case closed. If a recluse who lives in a cave hates, distrusts and fears everything and everyone on the planet and never leaves his lair nor does no harm, ignore him. If a lefty approaches you and lectures you about using government to enforce love and harmony, run like hell.