“America: Multiethnic, not Multicultural”
From time to time I have posted at VFR my articles on immigration and related subjects that had originally been published in the pre-Internet era. Here is perhaps the last in that series. In the below article, written in 1991 for Academic Questions, the quarterly journal of the National Association of Scholars, I showed the inadequacy of the mainstream conservative response to multiculturalism. That response consists (or rather consisted, since mainstream conservatives have long since given up their supposed fight against multiculturalism, along with many other things they once stood for) in portraying and celebrating America as a universal abstraction, and to say that this purely abstract notion of nationhood is the good opposite of bad multiculturalism. I argued that the neoconservatives’ supposed opposite of multiculturalism only leads to multiculturalism. The correct response to multiculturalism, I argued, was to see America not as a universalist idea, but as a particular nation and culture. Adopting material from my book The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism, I showed that the particular American culture is, at its core, Anglo-Saxon, and that American education needs to include the formative Anglo-Saxon dimension of America in its teaching of American history.
In the AQ piece, I criticized an article about multiculturalism by education expert Diane Ravitch which typified the mainstream or neoconservative view of the subject, and in which her special target had been Afro-centrist Molefi Asanti of the University of Pennsylvania. Ravitch wrote a response to my manuscript, and I wrote a reply to her response. All three articles appeared together in the Fall 1991 issue of AQ:
America: Multiethnic, Not Multicultural, by LA
I apologize if I have misinterpreted your thesis, but it seems to me that in your 1991 article you identify the Anglo-Saxon roots of American culture, but argue that everyone who comes to this country should assimilate into it. Do you still hold that belief, that American Anglo-Saxon culture is something that anyone can assimilate into?LA replies:
I was writing this for a mainstream, neoconservative / moderate-liberal, race-blind publication, and so went as far as I could possibly go within those limitations. The subject of the article is not immigration, but American culture and identity. Readers who accept that American culture is Anglo-form at its core will then start to have thoughts about whether all the people we’ve admitted and are still admitting are assimilable.John McNeil replies:
I prefer direct confrontation with the mainstream conservative concept of the propositional nation and American culture, but I’m still nervous about airing my views in public, so I have no right to judge your decision at the time. I also now see the basis of your strategy in deconstructing conservative faith in assimilation. I also failed to realize that in 1991 there was no such thing as blogs, and thus you could not afford to gamble your reputation amongst mainstream conservative publications. If you were so bold back then, you may not have had made a name for yourself and hindered your ability to reach out to the public.LA replies:
It was not a matter of not gambling my reputation; I had already published The Path to National Suicide, in which the racial theme is central. It was a matter of getting an article published. As it was, the editors had so over-edited and cut my article, and by so many different hands, that it had become a complete mess with contradictory versions. To fix it I drove down to NAS’s offices in Princeton and spend a day there with NAS’s then-editor Thomas Short, working together with him through the whole manuscript and restoring it to some kind of coherent statement that said what I intended it to say.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 14, 2011 09:34 AM | Send