It was, it seemed, a slip of the tongue. Al Gore was giving a speech in 1994 in Milwaukee when he uttered these words: “We can build a collective civic space large enough for all our separate identities, that we can be ‘e pluribus unum’ — out of one, many.”
Out of one, many. That’s how the then–vice president of the United States described the Latin phrase that has adorned the Great Seal of the United States since the late 18th century.
Gore was ridiculed for what some thought was a mistake. But he should have been praised by his allies, because it is precisely how they view the uniquely American idea of the melting pot. They don’t like it. They don’t want us all to melt into a common culture and set of ideals. Far better, goes their logic, to divide us along racial, ethnic, and class lines. Far better, goes their logic, to watch Americans fight it out along ethnic lines for college admissions and other prizes, because in their minds, far more separates us than unites us.
Forget E Pluribus Unum. If the modern diversity crowd had their way, they’d switch around those words on the Great Seal to Ex Uno Plures. Out of one, many.
But such divisive tactics can take the Left only so far. Sooner or later, their way of thinking will find itself gridlocked in a cul-de-sac of its own making, because life — and love — have a way of scrambling the plans of even the best-intentioned social engineers.
Take Natasha Scott, who was featured in a New York Times article back in 2011. The 16-year-old from Beltsville, Md., was going through a rite of passage common to many high-school juniors: the college-application process.
But Natasha had a problem. It wasn’t her grades. It wasn’t her SAT scores. It wasn’t her advanced-placement classes. It was her . . . parents.
You see, Natasha’s mom was Asian and her dad was African American. That triggered an existential identity crisis for this teenager in modern-day America. Which box, Natasha wondered, should she check? Which box would help her gain favor with admissions offices? Should she choose Asian? Should she choose African American? Or should she choose both? What was the right thing to do?
Unable to resolve the issue herself, Natasha asked her mom for advice. This is where the story gets really interesting. Rather than tell her daughter to do the right thing and check off both boxes, or check off none, Natasha’s mom urged her to check the box for African American.
That’s right. Though Asian herself, Natasha’s mom told her to ignore her Asian heritage and identify with her father’s racial heritage instead.
We know why her mom gave that advice. Asians, a minority in this country by any definition (they are only 5 percent of the U.S. population), don’t get preferential treatment at our elite colleges because they perform so well on academic-achievement tests and in high school and are overrepresented at elite schools.
Despite her mom’s advice, Natasha didn’t feel right about identifying herself as African American. After all, wouldn’t checking only that box amount to lying on her college application? Might it be considered fraud, an attempt to game the system?
Natasha’s diversity dilemma still unresolved, she did what many college-bound seniors do when faced with admissions questions. She hopped on the online bulletin board College Confidential to seek advice from her peers. “I just realized that my race is something I have to think about,” she wrote on the board. “It pains me to say this, but putting down black might help my admissions chances and putting down Asian might hurt it.”
Within minutes, the responses started coming in. “You’re black. You should own it,” one student wrote. “Put black!!!!!!!! Listen to your mom,” another student chimed in.
“I sort of want to do this,” Natasha replied, “but I’m wondering if this is morally right.” Good to know that someone had something resembling a moral compass in this morass of moral relativism. In the end, though, pragmatism — and opportunism — prevailed. Natasha decided to mark only one box: African American.
And she was rewarded for her dishonest call. Natasha was accepted by the University of Virginia and chose to attend the school that Thomas Jefferson built, but she didn’t feel completely comfortable with her decision. “I must admit that I felt a little guilty only putting black because I was purposely denying a part of myself in order to look like a more appealing college candidate,” she said.
That’s the absurd reality of the diversity game. It didn’t just pit Natasha against other students of other ethnicities and races for a precious seat at one of America’s most prestigious public universities.
It pitted Natasha against herself.