Multiculturalism, and how it grew
0 comment Sunday, September 21, 2014 |
The subject of multiculturalism and how it developed has come up many times on this blog. One idea that has been mentioned on discussion threads occasionally is the idea that multiculturalism and what has since become 'anti-racism' were very much a product of the Cold War era in American history. I agree with this assessment. The Cold War was one factor among a number of factors, but it was a substantial one, I think, in the development of what became the Civil Rights revolution. We can hear hints of this in John F. Kennedy's "Civil Rights Address" of 1963:
...this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?
Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.
We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality.''
It may be that other motives were at work here; of course there were do-gooders and utopian leftists as well as cynical, power-mad leftists at the center of this movement, but on the part of our government I can well believe that much of the rhetoric, such as that employed by JFK, was motivated by the fact that these racial incidents amounted to bad PR for America in the Cold War era.
At that time, the Cold War was at its height. Now, I am in no way dismissing the Communist threat, or the 'Soviet threat' although the latter was probably inflated. But we were obsessed with competing with ''the Russians" back then. I remember well how the news media constantly fretted about the Soviet Union. Newspapers often reported what the Russian ''news" media, such as Pravda and Izvestia were saying about America. We heard how they hated our popular culture, such as our decadent music like jazz and rock 'n roll, and our Hollywood movies, which they saw as examples of 'capitalist decadence.' That, of course, was the old left, which was quite prudish, even more so than the most conservative Christian sects. The postmodern left in the West embraces decadence enthusiastically, and in fact makes a virtue of it.
We read of how the Soviets banned much of our music and entertainment, and how they promoted a very negative view of the United States as a corrupt, unjust nation which let the poor starve and which denied blacks and other minorities their 'equal rights.'
We read many news reports out of the Soviet Union, describing how they brought many African students to Moscow to study at the university, and this was seen as a triumph of the Soviets' greater egalitarianism. We read of how some blacks from America, such as Paul Robeson, defected to the Soviet Union and found it to be a utopia, much superior to our country because the Soviets were 'colorblind.'
The Soviets courted emerging Third World countries -- which were then gaining their independence from the European colonial powers. The United States and the Soviets were in a worldwide competition to form alliances. We courted certain countries, and the Soviets had their sphere of influence. Cuba was a big crisis spot after the Revolution in which the Communist Fidel Castro seized power, and Cuba, being a ''multiracial'' nation suddenly became very important to us.
Obviously if these 'developing' nations, watching from afar, saw apparent injustices or 'brutality' towards blacks in our country, they would become hostile to us, and that wouldn't do, in a world which was being divided into two camps, Communist and 'free.'
It seemed to be all-important to our government to present a more egalitarian face to the world, so as to improve our image. We were in competition with the Communists, who claimed to have no color, race, or class barriers. So we decided, it seems, to compete with them on their terms, and to try to outdo them in being colorblind and equality-obsessed.
Another factor, with the aforementioned Cubans, was the presence of many Cuban refugees fleeing the Castro regime. They became an ethnic bloc who were to be pandered to, just as later 'refugees' from other Communist countries were. This put us a few steps farther down the multicultural road.
With the Cubans, the whole issue of bilingualism and the development of enclaves presaged the multicultural project that developed in the ensuing decades. And by the late 1960s, almost all immigration was from nonwhite countries, so that multiculturalism became a necessity, it seemed, as an alternative to pretending to assimilate unmanageable numbers of unassimilable peoples.
But our obsession with the Soviet Union as our greatest rival and threat led us to adopting the ill-omened policy of making ourselves over in the egalitarian image, with the Soviet Union as an exemplar for us. If they were 'colorblind' we had to be more so; if they welcomed Africans and other nonwhites, we had to outdo them so as to show how much better we were.
Decades later, we've become like a caricature of the old Soviet bloc countries in our zeal for 'political correctness' and re-education (alias ''sensitivity training"). Some years ago, Balint Vazsonyi, a Hungarian immigrant who became a patriotic naturalized American, warned us of how far we were straying down the same path as his former country in its Communist days. I am sure, were he alive today, he would be dismayed to see how much things have deteriorated even in the few years since his death.
The same pattern seems to be playing out in the West as a whole; everybody in Europe and in all of former Christendom has decided to embrace the extreme egalitarianism and multiculturalism. Of course it all fits very nicely with the drive towards a 'global world.' Funny how that worked out.
There is no doubt that our obsession with the Soviet Union, and our frenzied competition with them, was a bigger factor than most people acknowledge in the development of our present racially-obsessed system.

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