Thursday, June 10, 2010

Race, Identity, and Public Schools

Diana West’s recent editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times is a lot of things, surprising isn't one of them. Her other articles espouse the same inane, manipulative, accusatory rhetoric found within her straw man arguments.

In an article entitled, “Is there Anyone Left with America's Interest at Heart?” West discusses the media and government reactions to Faisal Shahzad’s attempted attack in Times Square. Over the course of two pages, West critiques “the fuzzy, cultural-relativism-based universalism that orders our society.” Essentially, West asserts that terror attacks happen because the United States (specifically democrats and the “liberal media-elite”) is too concerned with not offending anyone. Take for instance this excerpt:

If our leaders faced facts, you see, they might also have to act. They might have to consider such measures as halting Islamic immigration to stop the demographic spread of Sharia. Even a wartime immigration moratorium would help. Come to think of it, a simple ban on return travel from especially fertile jihad regions such as Pakistan -- a ban on return travel from the Northwest frontier alone -- would do wonders to shore up our vulnerabilities.

In Pakistan, after all, 79 percent of the people, according to a 2007 survey by, favor the "strict application of Sharia."

However, West fails to mention that in the same report that 82 percent believe that "people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs," that a majority of Muslims living in the Middle East support Democracy, greater international communication and trade. She also falls into the league of commentators who believe all Muslims seek to alter the societies within which they live, that “demographic spread” of Muslims is the same as “demographic spread of Sharia.”

It is this sort of one-sided, defensive approach that West wallows in during her recent editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times. She refers to our nation’s school system as “politically correct re-education camps” which I had to re-read a few times in disbelief. I honestly have no idea what she can mean by this. I wonder if Ms. West has been in a school recently. I never thought that I was being taught a “politically correct” version of anything. I did feel that some more sinister moments in this nation’s history were glossed over, but I never felt like I was receiving any sort of Maoist Cultural Revolution she alleges. What is interesting is that later in her article, West supports a new Arizona law that prohibits any public school from offering classes that “promote resentment toward another race or class of people” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Now, is this not the kind of political correctness she derides, where people are not allowed to embrace their own culture for fear of upsetting others? That a public school cannot provide a perspective and courses based on the needs of its students? Where the needs of an individual are outweighed by the interests of the collective?

In her article she writes, “It will be almost amusing to watch leftists try to slam a law against teaching racial resentment and hatred as ‘racist.’” Well, I’ll do my best to keep her doubled over. First, I seriously doubt that any African American Studies or La Raza course is teaching “racial resentment and hatred.” On the contrary, I believe that it gives students the opportunity to learn about their own culture as well as the culture of others. As much as she may disagree, there is not one definitive American history. We are a nation of immigrants and therefore our history is that of various interests and perspectives. To remove these classes is in effect removing a necessary perspective for students.

I’m sure West has some cultural or religious traditions based on her background. Did learning about the history of her ancestors create resentment against other races? I am sure she will claim that this argument is part of the “multicultural masquerade- the non-Western grievance industry pretending to be ‘education.’” While I love alliteration, I have to disagree with her. Please explain to me how a Hispanic Studies course or African American literature class is “non-Western?” I think West believes because some of these classes acknowledge some of the nastier moments in our nation’s past, that this will somehow raise resentment against whites or the rich, her bread and butter demographic. Now, please don’t attempt to retort to my argument with the tried and true defense, I am not calling West nor the reform in Arizona schools racist. I do not believe “it’s either ‘We are the world’ or you are racist.” What I am saying is that by removing these courses, students in Arizona public schools are not being provided with a well-rounded education. It is an action that harms many people but doesn’t seem to benefit anyone. Who were those classes hurting?

I think what may be at the crux of my disagreement with West is our perceived intentions of recent legislation in Arizona. She claims, “Arizona wants to protect American identity to ensure that all of its citizens, regardless of race or origin, have one.” Now, I agree, it is important for all citizens to feel as if they have an American identity. What I disagree with is that everyone has to have the same identity. Race, class, gender, religion and sexual orientation are all facets in one’s identity and to assert that we all must identify purely as Americans is unfair.

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Anonymous Ian English said...

In regards to your statements that La Raza and other culture based classes do not encourage racial resentment, I strongly disagree. If we were to be fair in our approach to "racial" issues, there would also be "white" culture classes, and there are truly none of those. Also, may I add that there are a multitude of racial minority clubs at all the high schools I have attended, i.e. The African-American student club, the Latino/a student club, the Filipino/Asian student club; yet if I, as a "white" student even proposed a "white" or "caucasian" club, the idea would be struck down as racist. The system either needs to allow equal rights, for EVERYONE, which means "white" people as well, or totally ignore racial factors. Race does not matter in our society, it is the merit of the individual that I judge.

12:18 PM


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