Beyond Polarization and White Nationalism: Embracing Our Deeper American Identity

Greg ThomasAudio, Conversations, History, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Perspectives, Politics, World Affairs, Worldviews Leave a Comment

In this, their second, freewheeling dialogue on topics of race, culture, and consciousness, Greg Thomas and Dr. Mark Forman dive more deeply into the unique perspective of Ralph Ellison (renowned author of Invisible Man) and his unparalleled value in our time of national crisis.

Seeing Ellison as a clearly “Turquoise” exemplar in his writings and understandings, Greg and Dr. Mark unpack some core of his key themes. These include:

  • that American culture has a type of oneness, that it is “an intricate whole” that can’t be reduced to any parts or binaries
  • that many Americans find discomfort in confronting this “complex and pluralistic wholeness” and overly focus on their more
  • easily identifiable ethnic identities, even as this larger, multi-influence identity irresistibly becomes all of us
  • that without a recognition of the wholeness of American culture, that we are destined to heightened division, discord, and even violence
  • that this larger American identity is discoverable in each one of us, as people, and in our hybrid tastes, influences, and ways of being – if we are willing to confront our initial discomfort and hear the call to a enlarged way of seeing and being American

Greg and Dr. Mark weave these themes along with reflections upon our current national and cultural reality, discussing – in this episode in particular – the rising challenges presented by White Nationalism unless there is a much deeper and more empathic cultural understanding of identity and culture.

In this episode, we specifically address the following topics:

  • Dr. Mark’s journey through the multicultural and African-American intellectual and “conservative” literature on race
  • Dr. Mark’s recognition of John McWhorter and Barack Obama as Integral exemplars in their understanding of race
  • Greg’s view of the challenges presented by the re-emerging White Nationalism if we don’t take a deeper view of identity
  • A discussion of the “deeper, higher, and wider” view of Ellison; Ellison as a “Turquoise” exemplar
  • Reading through select sections of Ellison’s essay, The Little Man in Chehaw Station
  • Ellison’s view of America as an “intricate whole”
  • Ellison’s confrontation with Irving Howe’s white liberalism
  • The psychological challenge of holding our own culturally hybrid identities as Americans – see our “Americanness”
  • The reality of the Little Man at Chehaw station: the American who knows things far beyond and outside what simplistic racial labels would lead one to judge based on his (or her) outsides. We are all the Little Man and he is always around us.

Come join us for this episode of Psychology Now, an ongoing exploration of self, other, and world!


Ellison, R. (1964, Feb 6th). The Blues. The New York Review of Books. Full text available here.

Ellison, R. (1995). “The World and the Jug” and “The Little Man at Chehaw Station”. The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison. New York: Modern Library. Full text available here.

Kouwenhoven, J. A. (1982). Half a Truth Is Better Than None: Some Unsystematic Conjectures about Art, Disorder, and American Experience. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Kouwenhoven, J. A. (1988). The Beer Can by the Highway: Essays on What’s “American” about America. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

Greg Thomas

About Greg Thomas

Greg Thomas has over 25 years of experience as a writer, producer, broadcaster and educator, and has been featured in publications as various as The Root, All About Jazz, Salon, London's Guardian Observer, the Village Voice, Africana, American Legacy, Savoy, New York's Daily News as well as the scholarly journal Callaloo. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Harlem World magazine from 2003-2006.

Mark Forman

About Mark Forman

Mark Forman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist whose text — A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy Complexity, Integration, and Spirituality in Practice – is considered one of the seminal works in the field of Integral Psychotherapy.

Leave a Comment