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Labels, Collective Mentality, and Notre Dame When asked if he is an Atheist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of my favorite astrophysicists,

philosophically tweeted, Labels are mentally lazy ways by which people assert they know you without knowing you. Theres a lot of truth to that statement. Human beings are social creatures by nature. Considering our evolutionary history, thats not anything surprising. When technology was largely nonexistent and living conditions were so harsh even the smallest detail was a matter of life and death, early humans united for food, shelter, and ultimately, for survival either we lived by the tribe, or we perished alone. While I fully agree this was necessary for survival, its worth noting tribes had awful consequences for the human society. The primary reason for this is the importance of a collective mentality in a tribe, the need for everyone to think and act for the interests of the group, as opposed to the interests of the individual. From the fear of becoming an outcast of a tribe, which eventually resulted in death, individuals thought and behaved in a certain way that pleased the overall group and feared speaking out. Thousands of years later, the collective mentality still exists in every facet of our lives, regardless of its usefulness towards human survival. It exists through nationalism, sports, religion, and ethnicity. Why does the collective mentality still exist? I believe it exists because we as individuals love joining with others that are similar to us, because in essence, that is a validation of our own views, characteristics, and simply of our existence when we are assured others take interest in the same things and look the same way we do. While the collective mentality can provide us comfort through validation, it can also bring harm. Since we are likely to group with those that are similar to us (in looks, common interests, behaviors, etc), we tend to alienate, and at times discriminate, those who dont withhold certain traits. What does this have to do with racism? I sincerely believe its the inability to think and decide for ourselves when looking past differences that lead to human tragedies such as racism. Its so easy to associate with people who look like us, and at times, the separation leads to the vilification of those who dont look the same way. Although, Im optimistic enough in the human race to say most people today dont hate other people for their skin color. Yet, they still make racist comments because at times, it is socially encouraged, and provides a reward through validation from their peers when tearing down people with differences. What does this have to do with Notre Dame? This university, from my experience, emphasizes and encourages the collective mentality unlike any other university I know. Though some cases, thats a good thing. Its fun to have dorm pride, cheering for our football team, etc. But, as a resident of Alumni Hall I cant count the number of times Ive been told that I should hate Dillon Hall, despite the fact that is where most of my friends reside. Also, during football games, you occasionally hear chanting proclaiming that Zahm is gay. And apparently, thats funny. While yes, this is all in good fun, and Im sure no one truly thinks that every Zahm resident is homosexual, or that they spike drinks at parties to sexually assault women. But its that constant labeling and stereotyping that encourages individuals to disregard thinking for themselves. We as

students constantly label each other, that Black guy, that Asian guy, or that Ginger. Treating each other this way is not conducive to healthy racial relations on campus, and it does not help that this university doesnt foster an environment where students learn to think for themselves. Instead, we foster a community where its socially beneficial for students to behave with a collective mentality. Unless we change that, we wont make significant improvements to race relations on this campus. Sure, we can accept more minority students, but what is that going to do?

What is Meaningful Progress in Race Relations? We here at Notre Dame love to talk a lot about how to remedy the racial tensions that exist on campus. And as an outsider looking in, it doesnt take much to realize there are some problems as evidenced by a disproportionate number of minority students in comparison to other top-tier schools (although that is rapidly changing), general separation among the student body to associate themselves with people of their comfort zone (Asians befriend Asians, Blacks to Blacks, etc), and the general disregard of respecting other ethnicities and culture (unfortunately something I have to put up with on a daily basis, even from my friends). Many of us would disagree that improving racial relations is a great thing, but how can we measure any improvements? What is meaningful progress when in comes to dealing with race? If the administration just started accepting more minority students, would that be progress? If people stopped making racial slurs, but withheld their hatred inwards, is that progress?

Labels, Stereotypes, and the Collective Mentality When asked if he is an Atheist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of my favorite astrophysicists, philosophically tweeted, Labels are mentally lazy ways by which people assert they know you without knowing you. There is truth to that statement, especially when we deal with race issues. We create labels, stereotypes, and resort to the collective mentality because it would be far too difficult to get to know everyone on a person-to-person basis. Its

As a residence of Alumni Hall, I dont know how many times Ive been told Im supposed to hate Dillon, or at least treat them like subpar human beings, even though most of my male friends live in Dillon.