“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

A Response to Auster, by Diane Ravitch

A Reply to Ravitch, by LA

- end of initial entry -

John McNeil writes:

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.

Do you think that those rules you had to play by in 1991 are still applicable today? Should we continue to speak the language of mainstream conservatives and try to influence them from within? Or do you think that the Internet has made such a tactic less important, and blogs like VFR are able to communicate directly with people, hence removing the need to be published in mainstream conservative journals?

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.

As for your question, 1991 is a long time ago. The multicultural issue has long since ceased being debated as it was debated then on the mainstream neoconservative right. It’s really not debated at all. Back then neoconservatives intensely, though ineffectively, opposed multiculturalism. It’s been many years since they have done that. As on other issues, they’ve given up defending America from multiculturalism, even as they demand that America’s multiculturalized culture be exported to the world.

But I don’t know that this means that the rules that applied then do not apply now. Each person is in his own situation. If a person has a chance to publish a radical anti-liberal article in a mainstream publication, but can only do so by soft-peddling some of his ideas, then that is something he should consider doing. In my own experience, the most interesting such instance of this was my 2005 article at FrontPage Magazine, “Guilty Whites.” In the manuscript I submitted to David Horowitz, I said that the reason blacks had failed to become equal with whites (a failure which was attributed to white racism and thus led to white guilt) was blacks’ own inherent limitations. Horowitz refused to publish the piece if it referenced racial IQ differences. So I found a way around that. I took out the passages on IQ differences, and replaced them with the argument that if blacks were to become equal with whites, it would have to come from blacks themselves, not from special favors given to them by whites, and that so far blacks had failed to do this. This argument, while avoiding the race/IQ argument, allowed me to keep intact the entire rest of the article, including the article’s central idea that black failure is due to blacks and is not whites’ fault, and therefore that white guilt is false.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 14, 2011 09:34 AM | Send

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