Salad Bowl of Multiple Identities

“We don’t need a melting pot…, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables – the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers – to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.”

Jane Elliot


“My first exposure to murder,” the Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen writes in “Identity and Violence” “occurred when I was 11.” It was 1944, a few years before the end of the British Raj and a period of widespread Hindu-Muslim riots. The victim was “a profusely bleeding unknown person suddenly stumbling through the gate to our garden, asking for help and a little water.” Rushed to the hospital by Sen’s father, the man died there of his injuries. He was Kader Mia, a Muslim day laborer knifed by Hindus. He had been asked by his wife not to go into a hostile area of then-undivided Bengal. But he had to feed his starving family, and he paid with his life.

To the young Sen, this event was not just traumatic but mystifying. How was it, Sen asks …, that “… human beings … were suddenly transformed into the ruthless Hindus and fierce Muslims…”? And how was it that Kader Mia would be seen as having only one identity — that of being Muslim — by Hindus who were, like him, out in the unprotected open because they too were starving? “For a bewildered child,” Sen remembers, “the violence of identity was extraordinarily hard to grasp.” And, he confesses, “it is not particularly easy even for a still bewildered elderly adult.”


From Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

In his book “Identity and Violence”  Amartya Sentakes aims at what he calls the ” ‘solitarist’ approach to human identity, which sees human beings as members of exactly one group.” This view, he argues, is not just morally undesirable, but descriptively wrong. Instead, Sen invokes the myriad identities within each individual. The people of the world can be classified according to many other partitions, each of which has some—often far-reaching—relevance in our lives: nationalities, locations, occupations, social status, languages, politics, and many others, including identity common to all – HUMANS. Because all of us contain multitudes, we can choose among our identities, emphasizing those we share with others rather than those we do not.

Let’s focus on our shared identities and appreciate differences for peace around the world.

From We Are Allowed to Be Human

* * *

Was it easier for you to accept the differences between the women in the video below, once you saw their shared identity?


30 thoughts on “Salad Bowl of Multiple Identities

  1. i have a certain conflict when i watched and read this post tonight. Having written just awhile ago on a different type of mother I am now with tears as I watch this video and admire those women who appear to be doing so much of what I did. One of the best mother being proud videos I recall was a young girl performing a ball exercise in a competition and she was excellent and every so often there was a shot of her mother a picture of concentration following her daughters routine step by step. When at the end the young performs a remarkable manoeuvre to complete her routine, in the background is her mother jumping for joy at the success her daughter achieved. I don’t think it matter what score that girl achieved more so her effort. Great post O.

  2. randomrose says:

    Salute to all Mothers, all women

  3. viewpacific says:

    Yes, we have both our humanity in common as well as the so many ways that we are part of one group or another.
    I like the salad bowl analogy. I have often thought of us as an orchestra. Such would not be very interesting if it were all horns or all clarinets. It’s in the diversity that we make beautiful music.

  4. viewpacific says:

    Oh, yes that virtual choir is glorious! Thanks for letting me hear and see them.

  5. bkpyett says:

    Otrazhenie, you write such moving posts that make so much sense.
    Thank you for your thoughtful and meaningful writing. May peace become a reality! ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ someone said this and I rather like it!!

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Barbara. Much appreciated. I do read a lot and like spreading ideas that I feel are important and which help me to understand the world better.

      Have you read a book ‘Virus of the mind: the new science of the meme’
      by Richard Brodie? It talks about memes, or ideas/assumptions that shape the way we perceive the world around us. We all have lots of memes in our minds and often are not even aware of them. Like viruses, these memes spread from person to person. Among those viruses, there are a few nasty once, that causes violence and suffering. The only way of combating those nasty ideas/memes is by spreading the positive once. That’s one of the purposes of my blog.

      You can find more information on memes and viruses of the mind at

  6. bkpyett says:

    I loved the video of mothers and the choir, fantastic!

  7. saumya says:

    This is such a beautiful video.
    It made me cry. Love you, mum 🙂

  8. rolerrol says:

    A very thought provoking post. It is true, we are different and we need to learn to embrace each other’s differences……and not kill one another because we are different.


  9. […] Salad Bowl of Multiple Identities. […]

  10. formyrtle says:

    Love this video! Thank you for posting it. I am sharing it on my blog, as well. Hope that’s ok.

  11. katelon says:

    Thanks. I’m going to reblog this. I grew up very sensitive to discrimination as a young child, just not understanding why people treated each other the way they did.

  12. katelon says:

    Reblogged this on Empower and Balance and commented:
    I love this…a “Salad Bowl of Multiple identities”. Even as a young child I was very sensitive to the discrimination that happened around me, not only against me but other children as well. Since I had such a strong spiritual identity, it just didn’t make sense to me how people treated each other.

    Time to create a world that celebrates the differences and comes together to harness the strengths of each other.

  13. laurie27wsmith says:

    Once we can see past the outside, the obvious differences in race, colour and standing and love what is there only then can we call ourselves human.

  14. […] when people get assigned to a particular group on the basis of one characteristic or one of their identities. The group of ‘the bigwigs’, ‘the CEOs’, ‘the fat cats’ might […]

  15. […] Salad Bowl of Multiple Identities […]

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