Yale Law School professor shares ways to heal America’s tribalism

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Yale Law School professor Amy Chua speaks to BYU students during her March 29 forum address. Chua explained contributing factors to “tribalism” and shared ways to bring the country together. (BYU Photo)

Yale Law School professor Amy Chua explained contributing factors to “tribalism” and shared ways to bring the country together during her March 29 forum address.

“Partisanship has become toxic,” Chua said. “And it’s increasingly difficult for people on different sides of the political aisle to talk civilly about issues like race, gender, climate change and election outcomes.”

Chua said some “serious people” today discuss splitting America up into “red America” and “blue America.” This division is a result of a human biological nature defined as tribalism, Chua said. Tribalism encompasses the need for connecting with groups and holding onto specific values and beliefs.

“Human beings are a little tribal — we are very tribal,” Chua said. “Once we belong to a group, our identities can become oddly bound up with it.”

Chua cited massive demographic transformation, social media and a growing divide between coastal elites and rural Americans as contributing factors to tribalism in the country.

Along with these factors, she also noted that when groups feel threatened, they often retreat into tribalism, thus strengthening that dividing bond.

Chua then offered three suggestions to combat tribalism in America: The first is to be more protective of the country’s special, national identity. The second is to promote and experiment with concrete, practical initiatives designed to help Americans see each other as fellow Americans. The third is teaching children U.S. history in a way that tells the truth while conveying the idea of America as a special nation.

Chua concluded with a poem by Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again.”

“‘O, yes, I say it plain,’” Chua read. “‘America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath — America will be!’”

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