Respecting All Cultures
ByAllowing Them to Remain Separate
August 12, 2013
Note: WHile I try to read all email and answer what I can, and find almost all of it interesting and thoughtful, I get swamped. Nobody likes being ignored, and I don't like doing it, but sometimes it isn't avoidable. Apologies.
Americans have prided themselves on America´s being a melting for so long that few notice that it isn´t. Cultures that could melt did, and those that couldn´t haven´t.
We tend to regard categories such as African-American, European-American, and Mexican-American as political, when in fact they designate unassimilated and perhaps unassimilable cultural entities. The differences are stark. The United States indeed is multicultural.
Go to a purely European-American community in, say, Idaho or Iowa. You will find clearly defined attitudes toward obedience to the law, the raising of children, toward schooling and acceptable behavior in school, toward democracy, self-reliance, constitutionality, civility, toward law and its enforcement. These qualities are not associated by accident. They closely resemble those found in Denmark and Finland. This is hardly surprising, since European-Americans came from Europe.
Now go to a purely African-American cultural enclave—say, Detroit. Here you will find very different attitudes toward study, behavior in schools, law enforcement, and reliance on governmental charity. Again unsurprisingly, society in Detroit resembles more closely that of Nigeria than of Holland since its people came from Africa and have had no contact with Europe or its values.
Now go to a Latino-American enclave, maybe El Paso, or Berwyn in Chicago. While Latino-American culture has much more in common with European-American than does African-American culture, because of heavy European influence during colonial times, attitudes toward schooling, government, marriage, and so on are distinctly not European-American.
Now, it is natural for cultures to be proud of their achievements and fond of their customs. As a European-American, I note that we have a continuous history from Agamemnon through Pericles, Archimedes, Xenophon through the magnificent achievements of Rome in government, architecture, and law--Ulpian, Papinian—through the Renaissance and its intellectual and artistic preeminence, through the invention of mathematics, chemistry, physics, electronics and so on. I grant that I am prejudiced—one always is regarding one´s own cultural home—but I think ours is a pretty fair record.
The successes of my people have sprung from studiousness, a talent for organization, obedience to law, and a certain adventurousness, both economic and otherwise. (“Hell, let´s drop out of Harvard and start Microsoft.”)
These qualities I think are the core of European-American identity, but they are not remotely unique to it. The Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and Jews for example share these values, with which account for their obvious successes. This underlying similarity of the deeper values explains why there is comparatively little friction among these groups.
Now, while I feel proud, justly so I believe, of the nature and accomplishments of my own people, I do not believe I have a right to instruct other cultures as to how they should live and behave—provided that their manner of living and behaving does not affect me. If a Mexican-American community chooses to play loud ranchera late at night, and put chili in milkshakes, I have neither the right nor a desire to complain. Different cultures have differing tolerances for noise and eat different things. So what? It is their business.
Similarly, I do not believe that I have a right to tell African-Americans how to live—provided that their culture does not affect me. Being a European-American, my suspicion is that people in Detroit would prosper by studying more and shooting each other less, but this is a cultural prejudice on my part. They can do as seems best to them. Nor do I pretend to impose my European-American notions of proper schooling on Detroit. The African-American community can teach its children anything it wants, or nothing at all. I don´t care. It isn´t my business—provided that it doesn´t affect me.
I don´t say this from hard-heartedness. If the schools of Detroit said, “Fred, we got these lousy, worn-out stupid textbooks and not enough of them. We need books with bigger words and smaller pictures. Can you help us?” I would respond, “Sure, which books you want? They will be on a truck by noon tomorrow. No charge.”
But multiculturalism is, or should be, a street of two directions. If I don´t want to impose my values on other cultures, neither do I want them to impose their values on me and mine. And that is exactly what the federal government is trying to do. It istrying to destroy my culture by melding it with others. This Is not multiculturalism.
For example, I believe in the correct use of language. My culture after all produced Milton, Shakespeare, Dodgson, Galsworthy, and Tolkien. But when African-Americans are put into a European-American school, they do not learn English, but rather impose Ebonics, and every third word is “Fuck.” This latter is said to be acceptable because it is part of their culture, as it certainly is. It is not part of mine.
As a European-American, I believe in advanced courses and strict grading. African-Americans do not, and so standards have to be lowered for my children. As a European-American, I believe that boys should wear their pants somewhat higher than the level of their ankles, and that any student who curses of pushes a teacher should be permanently expelled. African-Americans do not share my European-American views.
How other cultures view these matters is not my concern. Provided that they do it in their own schools.
Having said these things, I will of course be said to be a white supremacist and a racist and all the other markers of very dim minds. Hardly. For one thing, culture is not synonymous with race. I am perfectly content to have people of other cultures and races in the schools of my children, provided that they accept my European-American core values. For another, I am not aware that Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese, whom I very much admire, are white, though perhaps with global warming a hotter sun has bleached them. I know many Mexicans who share the core values of European-American culture, and do not regard myself as supreme over them.
Further, like almost all who are called white supremacists, I am in fact a cultural left-aloneist. I do not want supremacy over any group, as that would mean having them in custody, a responsibility of which I weary.
At the end of the day, I have to wonder what purpose is served by forcing cultures to mix. Nobody seems to want it. In Washington, DC, a city I know well, neither cultures nor races mix. When blacks move into a neighborhood, whites move out, and when whites move into DC, threatening to become a voting majority, blacks become unhappy. When whites leave the city, they go to white enclaves, notably Arlington, Fairfax, and Bethesda. Blacks go to Prince George´s County, mostly black.
Why not let them? Why not let people live with whom they choose, as they choose, and raise their children as they choose?