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How Multiculturalism Took Over America By: Lawrence Auster
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 09, 2004


Some years ago the Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer declared that "we are all multiculturalists now." One's initial response to such an unwanted announcement is to say: "What do you mean, 'we'?" Yet, even if "we" do not subscribe to that sentiment, it cannot be denied that over the last twenty years multiculturalism has become the ruling idea of America, incarnated in every area of society ranging from educational curricula to the quasi-official establishment of foreign languages, to mandated racial proportionality schemes in private employment and university admissions, to the constant invocations by our political, business, and intellectual elites of "diversity" as the highest American value. How, so quickly and effortlessly, did this alien belief system take over our country? In this article, I look at multiculturalism as an ideology that has advanced itself by means of a set of propositions. My intent is to examine the false arguments of the multiculturalists themselves, and to see how they have used these arguments to fool an all-too-willing American majority to go along with them.

The Fraud of Inclusion

The first principle of multiculturalism is the equality of all cultures. According to its proponents, America is an assemblage of racially or ethnically defined subcultures, all of which have equal value and none of which can claim a privileged position.

 

It follows from this that the main goal of multiculturalism is inclusion. Multiculturalists argue that minority and non-Western cultures have been unjustly excluded in the past from full participation in our culture, and that in order to correct this historic wrong we must now include them on an equal basis. In other words, these minority cultures must be regarded as having the same public importance as America's historic majority culture. Moreover, we are told, this equal and public inclusion of different cultures does not threaten our culture, but "enriches" it. By this reasoning, if we became (say) an officially bilingual society, with Spanish appearing alongside English on every cereal box and street sign in the land (as is done with the two languages of Canada), our culture would not be harmed in the slightest. We would only be including something we once excluded. We would have become something more, not less. What could be more positive? How could any decent person object?

 

To begin to answer that question, let us imagine a scenario in which a Western cultural group—say a large population of Italian Catholics—moved en masse into a Moslem country and demanded that the host society drop all public observance of its majority religion and redefine itself as a multicultural state. When the Moslems react in fear and outrage, the Catholics answer: "What are you so uptight about, brothers? In challenging Islam's past exclusionary practices, we're not threatening your religion and way of life, we're enriching them." Of course, as even the multiculturalists would admit, such "enrichment" would change Islam into something totally unacceptable to the Moslem majority. By the same logic, if the U.S. Congress were required to conduct all its proceedings in Chinese or Spanish alongside English, that would obviously not "enrich" America's political tradition, but radically disrupt and change it. To say that a majority culture must "include" alien traditions on an equal basis in order to prove its own moral legitimacy is to say that the majority culture, as a majority culture, is not legitimate and has no right to exist. 

 

Since multiculturalism claims to stand for the sanctity and worth of each culture, the discovery that its real tendency is to dismantle the existing European-based culture of the United States should have instantly discredited it. Yet it has not—not even among conservatives. A leading reason for this failure is that modern conservatives are themselves ethnicity-blind, democratic universalists. Their conservatism consists in seeing multiculturalism as an attack on their universalist tenets. They fail to understand multiculturalism as an attack on a particular culture and people, namely their own, because as universalists they either have no allegiance to that particular culture and people or their allegiance is defensive and weak. Thus the typical conservative today will say that multiculturalism is bad because "it divides us into different groups"—which is of course true. But he rarely says that multiculturalism is bad because "it is destroying our culture"—America's historic culture and civilization—since that would imply that he was defending a particular culture rather than a universalist idea. Because conservatives are unwilling to defend the very thing that multiculturalism is seeking to destroy, they are unable to identify the nature of multiculturalism and to oppose it effectively.

 

Several caveats are in order before proceeding with a discussion, which will inevitably incite the multicultural left and invite its characteristically unscrupulous attacks. When I speak of America's "dominant Western culture," or of its "majority culture and people," these are not intended as code words for whites. Individuals of non-European ancestry are and can be full members of America's majority Western culture. At the same time, it is a historical fact that America’s defining political culture is Anglo-Saxon and Protestant in origin and character. A Japanese-American can become an American by embracing this culture—this culture shaped by Anglo-Saxon and Protestant traditions—as his own. (And I write this as a non-Anglo-Saxon Jew.) The same is true for individuals of any ethnic or racial group.

 

In this article I refer occasionally to whites as well as to generic conservatives, mainly because whites, as the American majority population and the historic ethnic core of the dominant culture, are the particular targets of multicultural propaganda. Whites as a group are never spoken of today except in negative terms. This is the case even as liberal white elites worship at the altar of blacks as a group, of Moslems as a group, of Mexicans as a group, and so on. Many whites have so absorbed today's anti-white attitudes that they consider it "racist" even to think of themselves as whites or to speak of whites as a category at all. Not only does this represent a malignant double standard, in which nonwhites are empowered in their anti-white racism while their white targets are silenced, it doesn't even make sense. How can we speak intelligently about the fateful issues of multiculturalism and national identity if we are not even allowed to mention one of the main parties (though most of its members decline to think of themselves as a party) to those controversies?

 

My occasional use of the present tense to portray the respective sides of the diversity debate should not be taken to suggest that any meaningful debate on that topic is still going on, at least in mainstream venues. As has been increasingly evident since the mid-1990s, the multiculturalists have pretty well won their war against America's former dominant culture, in the sense of supplanting it as the prevailing national idea. Multiculturalist agendas and the rhetoric of diversity inform the key institutions and official expressions of American society. It is now an unquestioned credo both in the schools and among the elites that the central purpose of our society is the inclusion of other peoples and cultures, rather than the preservation, flourishing, and enhancement of our own people and culture. Multiculturalism is embraced in the highest precincts of the establishment right as well as the left. Thus George W. Bush, casting aside Ronald Reagan's belief in immigration with assimilation, has celebrated the growth of unassimilated foreign languages and cultures in this country, while his closest aide, Condoleezza Rice, who ten years ago told radio host Bob Grant that she was a Republican because Republicans treated her as an individual instead of as a black, now supports minority racial preferences in college admissions and throws around diversity rhetoric with the best of them.

 

The victory of multiculturalism does not mean that all is lost. The country can be won back from the dominant multicultural ideology, but only if we recognize that it is, in fact, the dominant ideology. Could Reagan have liberated Eastern Europe from Communism if he had imagined—as did the hapless Gerald Ford—that Communism did not actually control Eastern Europe? My purpose, then, is not to warn readers against a future multicultural takeover of American institutions and politics, since it has already substantially occurred. My purpose is to show how the takeover occurred, and, equally important, how the intellectual failures of conservatives allowed it to occur. Only by exploring those intellectual errors to their root, and reversing them in our own minds, do we have any hope of reversing the multiculturalist ascendancy over our country, and, ultimately, of winning back what we have lost.

 

In the paragraphs that follow, several examples will help illustrate the real direction of the multiculturalist ideology and the blindness of conservatives—particularly of white conservatives—to its agendas.

 

Example 1. Multiculturalists charge that the Western literary tradition is too "narrow" because it doesn't include voices of Third-World peoples of color. The implication is that the Western tradition as it has existed up to the present moment is not legitimate, and that it can only become legitimate by including other traditions.

 

Two realities are ignored here, both by the multiculturalists and by their targets. The first reality is that the Western tradition is a tradition. The second reality is that it is our tradition—the "our" referring to all those who are, or who aspire to be, whatever their ethnic and racial background, heirs and members of that tradition. When multiculturalists object to the word "our," claiming it is exclusive, they are really saying that they don't consider the Western tradition to be theirs. They are saying that they want to take it over and change it into something else. They are saying that they don't want the Western tradition to exist any more. And when Americans quickly agree that we shouldn't say "our" tradition, because the Western tradition is universal and belongs to the whole world, and when we further strive mightily to demonstrate how universal Western culture really is, without the slightest tincture of cultural particularity about it, we have tacitly conceded the multiculturalists' point that the Western tradition has no right to exist.

 

Example 2. Black studies professor Henry Louis Gates writes that the universities should adopt a curriculum that reflects all the world's cultures, not merely Western culture. Such a world culture, Gates continues, "situates the West as one of a community of civilizations. After all, culture is always a conversation among different voices."

 

That last comment is a snare for the gullible. It is one thing to say that the Western conversation consists of such different voices as (for example) Christianity, Judaism, Greek philosophy, and modern science. It is quite a different thing to say that the Western conversation consists of Shi'ite Islam, Animism, Voodoo, and Rastifarianism. Clearly, to include every voice as an equal participant in the Western conversation would mean the end of the Western conversation. Gates tacitly admits this is his purpose when he remarks: "To insist that we 'master our own culture' before learning others ... only defers the vexed question: What gets to count as 'our' culture? What has passed as 'common culture' has been an Anglo-American regional culture, masking itself as universal."(2) In other words, the Anglo-American or Western culture should not be transmitted as our primary culture because it is not really "ours," and it is not really "ours" because it doesn't include all cultures, meaning non-Western cultures and those who belong to them.

 

Leaving aside the complex question of whether and under what conditions Western culture includes non-Westerners, the more immediate concern to us here is that Western culture is the culture of Westerners. Gates wants to include other cultures within Western culture so that the resulting hodgepodge will belong equally to everyone in the world. But—and this is the point overlooked both by the multiculturalists and their conservative universalist opponents—that means taking Western culture away from Westerners. The debate becomes a debate between the global multiculturalists on the left, and the global universalists on the so-called right, with no one standing up for the historical Western culture.

 

Example 3. In a widely-publicized incident at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1990s, an administrator sharply criticized an undergraduate on a diversity planning committee for writing of her "deep regard for the individual." "This is a RED FLAG phrase today," the administrator wrote back, "which is considered by many to be RACIST. Arguments that champion the individual over the group ultimately privilege the 'individuals' belonging to the largest or dominant group."(3) For the multiculturalists, Western individuality is nothing but a mask of illegitimate dominance, which must be stripped away. But for Westerners, Western individuality is an integral aspect of their being. Therefore to get rid of Western individuality (so as to include non-individualistic, non-Western cultures) is to destroy the very essence of Western people. Conservative critics of multiculturalism never grasp this fact, because, as universalists, the notion of a particularist Western essence is alien to them.

 

Example 4. The celebrated black novelist Toni Morrison writes that the American ideals of liberty and the rights of man are "permanently allied with ... the hierarchy of race."(4) [Emphasis added]. Morrison may be more correct than she realizes. The ideals of liberty that she despises—whether they be secretly "hierarchic" or not—are historically white Western ideals (though, as I've said, people of any background can aspire to them), and it's clear to anyone with eyes that race-avenging blacks such as Morrison will quickly destroy the rights and institutions based on those ideals as soon as they are in a position to do so. If the majority of blacks believe that liberty is only a white ideal, then the political ascendancy of blacks with their contrasting black ideals (i.e. ideals of black racial consciousness and black racial power) must mean the end of liberty. Meanwhile, the conservative universalists see Morrison's ideas as only a threat to a universal order in which blacks and whites could live together as one. They fail to see these ideas for what they really are: an attempt to destroy our historic Western culture of liberty and individualism.

 

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