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Multiculturalism’s Racist Agenda

Pepperdine Professor George Reisman wrote an interesting article back in the early 1990s on multiculturalism called Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism. At that time, the political correctness movement was getting into full swing as multiculturalism swept college campuses in the U.S.

Reisman didn’t call the phenomenon “multiculturalism.” He called it “Eurocentrism”—the view that Europeans and their descendants tend to believe European culture is superior to other cultures in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This “ethnocentrism,” as it was called by early American anthropologists, was believed to be the root of racism. Multiculturalism—the view that all cultures are morally equivalent and equally deserving of political status—was seen as a way to combat the racism fueled by ethnocentrism.

The impact of the cultural diversity movement, as Reisman pointed out, significantly altered the philosophy of the American education system. Schools began offering “culturally diverse” or multicultural curricula that downplayed the importance of Western history and art.

Since multiculturalism seemed to be a way to eliminate racism, who could argue against it? The ideology quickly spread, and Columbus Day was forgotten. Culture suddenly became an unquestioned value that needed to be protected, preserved, respected and celebrated.

But what began three decades ago as a campaign to eradicate racism, has actually increased racism. No one can deny that violence, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism are on the rise in Europe—where multicultural legislation has been in place since the early 1960s.

Far from being a tool to integrate immigrants into society, multiculturalism helped create ghettoized, immigrant communities that are an economic drain on the welfare states that support them. The integrity of the Islamic cultures of these communities has been so well-protected under multiculturalism that they threaten to take over Europe. In response, many European nations are now reversing their multicultural policies and returning to immigrant assimilation theories of the past.

The Netherlands has perhaps taken the strongest stance against the multicultural approach to integration. The country was shocked into action when a Muslim immigrant brutally murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh for making a film about Islam. In 2006, the Dutch Ministry mandated stringent visa laws that require immigrants to pass a Dutch cultural test. The test requires applicants view a video showing aspects of the socially liberal Dutch culture—which, of course, includes nudity and homosexuality. The message: If you can’t accept Dutch culture, don’t live here.

Less than two years after the Dutch filmmaker’s death, violence erupting in response to publication of the Danish cartoons would be an omen of something truly rotten in Europe. Clearly, this was not the intended result of anti-discrimination, multicultural policies. What went wrong?

The problem with multiculturalism is twofold and lies in fundamental contradictions implicit in its definition: 1) The idea that culture is defined by race or “ethnicity” and 2) that all cultures are morally equivalent. Neither of these ideas is true. Race does not determine your culture, and some cultures are better than others. A culture that is anti-reason, anti-life and tyrannical is not a culture worthy of protection. It is a slave state.

In trying to counter racial discrimination, multiculturalism’s proponents have subverted the real meaning of racism—which is the practice of equating metaphysically given attributes like skin and hair color with a person’s character and values—by equating culture with race or ethnicity. Using this logic, any criticism of a culture is a “racial” slur.

But while judging a person’s character by skin color is irrational—skin color is not a person’s choice—the same is not true when passing judgment on cultures. Culture and ethnic customs are not mandated by birth any more than character is. If they were, then new ideas could not be adopted by anyone outside the culture that produced them and human progress would be the result of genetics. It doesn’t get more racist than that.

Contrary to multiculturalism’s tenets, cultural customs are bodies of ideas and as such are volitional. Culture is manmade, not metaphysical. By equating culture with race, multiculturalists have institutionalized racism and opened the floodgates to a dangerous subjectivism where judging any ethnic traditions, no matter how irrational, is labeled discrimination.

Consider the case of a Bangladeshi woman living in East London who was charged with child abuse after inflicting brain injuries on her baby. She had shaken him violently to purge evil spirits. The court delayed her sentencing for two years because it determined that ethnic isolation had prevented her from “getting to know the ways of living in the West…” Apparently, if you shake a baby to death in Bangladesh to exorcise demons, no crime has been committed. It’s just part of being non-Western.

The same “logic” is applied to the largely Muslim practice of subjugating women. One German judge denied a speedy divorce to a woman being beaten by her husband because the couple was Moroccan. Their Muslim background was a mitigating factor that transcended Western rule of law. The potential dangers of cultural relativism do not stop at child abuse or wife-beating when you consider that Iranian courts recently released serial killers because they were acting in accordance with Islamic law. This list of injustices in the name of mulitculturalism is growing.

A logical consequence of cultural relativism is to view expectations of immigrant assimilation as inherently disrespectful and racist. Non-Westerners, according to multicultural doctrine, should be allowed to retain their cultural and ethnic identities; indeed, their differences from the West should be celebrated. Multicultural goals were established specifically to help cultural groups retain and foster their identities in the growing wake of an ever-increasing “Westernized” world.

But Western practices and customs do not discriminate on the basis of race and are not part of a closed or defined ethnic culture. Western ideas represent a profound respect for reason, logic and a universe governed by natural laws immutable by human belief systems. Consequently, Western politics respect an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—rights that are only violable by the use of force.

These “Western” ideas are open to anyone, regardless of race or ethnic origin. The idea that you have be of European descent to use reason or recognize natural laws is itself a racist notion. Human progress depends on logic and reason. To reject the Western values of logic and reason is to reject human progress and to relegate humankind to a primitive existence, where suffering and despair are disfigured as virtues.

The failure of multiculturalism’s inherently racist agenda is a lesson we need to learn now. It is a lesson that is intelligible by anyone willing to see that Western ideas are not the province of a privileged few but are good because they lead to prosperity and political freedom. Dutch-Somali immigrant Ayaan Hirsi Ali recognized this fact when she wrote in her autobiography, Infidel:

Life is better in Europe than it is in the Muslim world because human relations are better, and one reason human relations are better is that in the West, life on earth is valued in the here and now, and the individuals enjoy rights and freedoms that are recognized and protected by the state.”

Political systems, which define human relations, are not determined by race. Some political systems are better than others. Free republics are better than theocracies and totalitarian dictatorships. The freer political systems of the West are not limited to Europeans or European descendants. What Hirsi Ali identified is a respect for rule of law that does not exclude anyone on the basis of race or ethnicity.

By emphasizing ethnic backgrounds and racial differences, multiculturalism has created unnatural divisions within Western society that accentuate unimportant, genetic differences and cause conflict. But you cannot eliminate racism by focusing on race.

There is nothing inherently valuable about race or ethnic background, whether European on non-European. What matters are the ideas and values chosen by individuals that make up a culture. Reason and freedom are pro-life values that can be accepted by anyone.

Ayn Rand once wrote: “You don’t see advocates of science and reason clogging a street in the belief that using their bodies to stop traffic will solve any problem.” You don’t. Generally, you see xenophobes and racists clamoring for whatever agenda their group is promoting that week.

If we are to stop multiculturalism’s racist’s agenda, we must uphold the sovereignty of the individual over the group—and we must not allow any group (defined by race, ethnicity, religion or culture) to claim “rights” that contradict natural laws. We must embrace the Western yet universal values of reason and freedom. Only then can we turn the trend away from the violence and racism clogging our streets.

3 comments to Multiculturalism’s Racist Agenda

  • Joe

    I’m editing your post because it is a repost of your blog and not a true comment. I understand your anger at the problems erupting over “race” in Europe–but the point of my article is that race is irrelevant. People should be judged on their behavior and culture is behavior.

    If everyone saw themselves as an individual as opposed to a member of a group, then we wouldn’t see the problems we see today. Multiculturalism encourges “group” think or tribalism.

    When I use the term “assimilate” I simply mean: follow our rules and obey our laws. Nothing else.

    Anyone who judges someone on the basis of skin color is still by definition a “racist.” I would apply that to anyone, whether they direct their prejudice at a white person or non-white person.

  • Msafiri

    I think I disagree with some of your points, but it would seem to me to be a disagreement about definitions, rather than substance. For example, “multiculturalism” seems to mean to you a policy of division and segregation which fosters mutual incomprehensibility and hostility along arbitrary and dangerous lines. I don’t want this any more than you do, but for me, “multiculturalism” means that school syllabi now teach the novels of Toni Morrison as well as those of Salman Rushdie, that philosophers can legitimately ponder the life and times of Ghandi, and that History includes the mistakes and lapses of our past, as well as our triumphs. We should celebrate our freedoms, but they are not automatic to us–people had to fight for them, suffer for them and die for them. (Abolitionists, civil rights activists, the women’s movement, etc.) We are not self-evidently “perfect.” If we needed reminding, the Holocaust happened well within the lifetime of people now alive, and Germany certainly had not been invaded by marauding Muslims when it decided to kill Jewish people. Which is to say, all forms of absolute thinking, attempts to control thought and dissidence, and the propensity to react to difference with violence are dangerous. No matter where they come from, or what book/text/law they claim as support.
    Further, certainly it is ridiculous to allow the killing of babies, the mutilation of women, the issuing of fatwahs (really, these are nothing more than contracts for assasination, or “hits” which are already illegal) and other such maniacal and homicidal behaviour. However, Islam is not a virus. You don’t “get infected” and then find yourself under a compulsion to run out and murder people or bomb buildings or oppress people. The problem, it seems to me, is that we have surrendered too early and too easily. The mad mullahs have said to us (on their way to purchasing bombs and guns to kill us with) that theirs is the only version of true Islam. Ms. Ali agrees with them. If we agree too, then we have said that all the hundreds of millions of Muslims who have never killed, oppressed, or otherwise harmed anyone in their lives were wrong, and mistaken in believing themselves to be Muslims. We have also said to ourselves that our culture–to the extent that we can identify it–is so weak, so fragile, and so lacking in intrinsic merit that the only way we can defend it is by converting ourselves into unthinking hostile people every bit as fanatical, as absolutist, as prone to sweeping generalisations and rigid discriminations as the mad mullahs themselves. I do not see this as a positive development for us. In fact, from where I stand, it looks like we are handing them victory on a plate. They’ve won. We are all them. We hate multiculturalism. All of it. No exceptions. Happily for the mad mullahs, they hate multiculturalism too–that is precisely why they want to kill us.

  • Msafiri,
    Thanks for writing. You make some very interesting points. I agree with you that a good education will include as much world history as possible — including triumphs, like Ghandi, as well as the failings of Colonialism and tragedies, like World War II and the rise of fascism. I have no problem with teaching the facts or great literature, no matter who writes it. I just think you should be able to judge cultures good or bad — that is, pro-life or anti-life. Saying all cultures are morally equivalent is unjust and leaves you no way to fight the injustices, like murder in the name of faith.

    You are right that disagreements are usually about definitions. Multiculturalism is such a vague concept that is almost meaningless, which is why I think you have to look at its historical and political use — it was a program set up to help immigrant communities retain their cultural identities and was intended to fight discrimination by stating all cultures are equal in value.

    But I don’t think encouraging people to identify with a particular race or ethnic group can eliminate racism. I think this practice makes matters worse because it divides people into “tribes.” Tribalism by nature leads to warfare because it places value on the group or tribe over the individual. But there is no intrinsic value in any group. A group is always made up of individuals, and it is individuals who have political rights and who need to be protected by government.

    Allowing each individual the freedom to pursue his or her own path to happiness without hurting others is ideal. Whether that path is through religion or through science is up to them. Religion should not be forced on anyone, which is why I oppose theocracies. But I respect another person’s right to practice any religion, so long as the practices of the religion do not violate individual rights.

    I agree that the “mad mullahs” have put moderate (or pro-reason) Muslims in a very bad place. They are trying to force a theocratic government that imposes its will on the people. A proper government should be in place to protect individuals from force, not use force against its citizens. This is a tragedy.

    I do not know the answer to the current problems within the Muslim world, except that, yes, it will eventually mean that people will have to let go of identifying with groups or tribes based on religion or ethnicity. (Or, if they identify with a group, they can’t expect their group to govern over others.) I don’t think there is any value in identifying with an ethnic group at all. There is no “intrinsic value” as you say, to a race or culture. I don’t think one should hold on to a “culture” for culture’s sake — a person’s value is not based on the tribe he is born into.

    Whenever you see men trying to establish a religion as a government, it is just an excuse to have power over people. I think you would agree that the “mad mullahs” are power-hungry men who seek to dominate others in the name of religion. In that sense, they are just like the Christian popes of the past. Fortunately, Christianity did not survive as a form of government in the West, and the concept of individual rights was discovered.

    I do think there is hope against tyranny. At least, I don’t want to stop thinking there is hope for people who live under that threat.