Publication Date



The phrase, “Living with Others,” is especially intriguing in the context of race relations in the United States. At one level, it invites pleasantries about our natural wish for harmony and peace among diverse peoples, along with simple or even simplistic notions about what it takes to achieve this harmony and peace. At another level, however, it has the potential to be something much more complex.

To speak of living with others against the backdrop of the history of black Americans is to ask the following key question. How does a minority people manage to live with the majority, when those other people, or most of them, have historically conceived of the minority group as the absolute Other—that is, as the embodiment of the opposite of all that is virtuous, beautiful and honorable, and almost incapable of being fully assimilated? This question faced black Americans virtually from the first days of their presence in America. They had to live with others, who formed the majority, when they knew that the others viewed them as the ultimate Other. To some extent, this challenge still faces the nation.