“To Be Human: The Human Experience is Bigger than the American Experience”

“To Be Human: The Human Experience is Bigger than the American Experience”

It seems to me in contemporary American society, the human life and the American experience are reduced to four major issues: the narrative of race, the narrative of gender, the narrative of sexuality, and the narrative of white supremacy. The existential question before us is this: how shall we think about the discourse of race, gender, sexuality, and white supremacy within the national narrative of the American Republic today? Yet people in different parts of the world, especially in the Global South, have comparable existential human questions that may arise at any time that they often learn more in times of darkness and hopelessness than in light and freedom, including the threat of imperialism, mass poverty, global hunger, capitalist exploitation, high unemployment, mass illiteracy, child and sex trafficking, malaria, AIDS/HIV, clean and sanitary water, agriculture, farming, and the menace of American-European political hegemony in the world. My invitation to you reader is to be concerned about “the other worlds” and to ask critically : how shall we reason about other equally human concerns that are global, trans-national, trans-racial, and trans-gender in our times? Arguably, the human life is formed profoundly by different forces, competing discourses, distinct values, and it is also shaped substantially by multiple stories and agencies that are sometimes inconsistent, transnational, and heterogeneous.

By any means, am I insisting these pressing matters (race, gender, sexuality, and white supremacy) do not transform how we construct social relations, define humanity, forge friendship, and nurture human relationships in the American culture; rather, I am proposing that there are equally important experiences and narratives that are shared by all human beings universally, and that those stories and events respectively mark the human condition and alter both the civil and political societies in this culture and in the global community. I am also suggesting that the human experience—although may be shaped by a particular social environment and particular historical context within the (political) framework of a specific nation-state (i.e. the U.S.)—transcends the American experience and the Americentric definition of humanity.

Even within the geopolitical context of the United States, what it means to be human should always rise above Americentric values and ideologies. To be human should not be confined to a particular geographical location, citizenship, and nationality—those of the United States, for example. The notion of human membership is a transcendental experience that bears transnational and intercultural attributes, concurrently. While the American citizenship or nationality does in fact come with global advantages and international privileges—especially when an American travels to a foreign country with a U.S. passport, for example—because of its association with the American empire and political hegemony in the world, both citizenship and nationality as geopolitical identities also belong to all peoples and nations. Therefore, we should see ourselves as global citizens of the world and global (inter-)nationals of the global village.

To be human simply means to have defining values and qualities that are universally common in all peoples in the world, regardless of location, sexuality, race, gender, and nationality. In other words, there are human characteristics, properties, and virtues that all people in the world experience and possess, including family/kinship, friendship/companionship, compassion, kindness, love, dignity, worth, reason, self-awareness/consciousness, intelligence, ontological equality, personhood, suffering, pain, sorrow, illness, feelings/emotions, culpability/guilt, ambitions, dreams, etc.

Further, everything in society should not be reduced to the concept of race; arguably, race alone does not regulate all human trajectories and journeys in this life. All matters in society should not rotate around the notion of gender; gender alone does not constitute all the multiple identities and experiences that are intrinsic to human existence and the way an individual, for example, understands or perceives his or her place in the world. Correspondingly, everything in this culture should not be reduced to sexuality; while for some people, human sexuality (or their sexual preference) defines their humanity and struggle to articulate personal freedom and (ontological) identity, sexuality could also be interpreted collectively, that is, within the context of a community and kinship. As human beings, we do not just live personal lives; our personal lives are also corporate and collective, and beyond the confinement of the individual (sexual) preference or option. Finally, everything in society and in the human experience does not point to white supremacy; in other words, I am suggesting that white supremacy does not name human history nor defines human existence or entails what it means to be human in the world.

Our struggle is against our own conception of humanity and to be incorporated into the global humanity. Correspondingly, our underlying challenge in our community and the world is to find the appropriate tools and adequate recourses to maximize our humanity and sustain our inherent dignity while maintaining the transcendental nature of our individual and collective humanness.

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