The sun shone brightly at the Indiana State Penitentiary, but as the prisoners gathered for a Prison Fellowship program, I felt a cold chill. The black inmates veered to the right side of the yard; the white inmates huddled on the left. When Mike Singletary, retired Chicago Bears linebacker-a black man-addressed the crowd, the black inmates clapped and cheered; when I spoke, the whites cheered. Never before in 20 years had I witnessed such self-segregation among prisoners.

I felt the same chill when I watched Louis Farrakhan at the Million Man March, with his esoteric numerologies. Farrakhan cited the 1968 Kerner Commission Report about two Americas, "one black and one white-separate and unequal." Ever since the Simpson trial, a crescendo of voices is telling us that whites and blacks do not see things the same way, that they have vastly different "life experiences," that they don't even speak the same languages.

Are we on the same path as Canada, which recently came within a hair's breadth of breaking apart? Americans, after all, do not share a single ethnic background. Instead, our cultural fabric is woven from the threads of a shared language and a common culture of "liberty and justice for all." And both are threatening to unravel. Proponents of "Black English" in the schools insist that blacks don't speak a dialect of English but a separate language altogether. Some African Americans are dropping the second half to call themselves simply "Africans." A Native American student was asked on a Denver television program what she thought of the term "Native American." She replied that she saw herself as "a Native" but not as an "American."

Increasing numbers of Americans seem eager to opt out of our national culture. Postmodern ...

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