Superficial Connections


What do the following people have in common?


  • A sports fan that is excited that his team won a game.
  • A woman that declares that Playboy magazine is degrading to women.
  • A racist that quotes historical incidents to show that an ethnic group is inferior.
  • A teacher that displays a poster of black inventors every February.
  • A patriot that is proud of the past and present inventors from his country.
  • An albino that protests “The Da Vinci Code” movie because it contains an antagonist character that is an albino.
  • A college admissions board member that considers a potential student more strongly because his father attended the college.
  • A legislator that votes for a bill to encourage more minorities to be in an industry.


It’s quite a list. Give up? They all see groups where only individuals actually exist. They think the actions of an individual are a reflection of others based on some superficial connection between them. Consider the sports fan; perhaps he likes the New York Yankees. The Yankees win a game and the fan is happy. Why? Do the abilities of a group of professional athletes mirror the fan’s abilities? Do the athletes represent him in a meaningful way? Are the players even from New York or are most of them drafted or traded from somewhere else? Regardless, the fan still has fervent passion for “his” team.


Consider the woman. Are the nude models in a magazine a reflection of her as an individual? Consider the racist. Is he correct in saying that the actions of one individual with a certain skin color reflect the disposition of other individuals with that skin color? Consider the teacher. Is she praising the accomplishments of the inventors as individuals, or is she trying to apply their accomplishments to black people as a group? Consider the patriots that do the same thing: a German man that is proud of the music of Beethoven, a Chinese man that is proud that the compass was invented in China, or a British woman that is proud of the literary skill of J.K. Rowling. Can one share another’s accomplishments by sharing a country?


The final three scenarios are similar to the others. Does an albino character in a movie reflect other albinos? Does one individual deserve to go to college more because another individual went also? Do some individuals deserve benefits over others because the government has decided that an arbitrary grouping of individuals is not well-represented in an industry? Such examples are common in today’s world. People need to recognize that commonalities among people such as shared genetics or shared locations are only superficial connections, and that it is fallacious to group people to such things and treat them as having shared minds. We are all individuals.


(Of course, you can still get with your friends and cheer those sports teams. Just be careful about how you think people represent each other.)