Let this much be conceded to the racists who are promoting remedial racism at American colleges and universities: Our institutions of higher learning have indeed been remiss in teaching cultures other than Western culture. No other concessions need be made.
These comments are occasioned by the appearance in March of the most important work of non-fiction in many months. It is "Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus," by Dinesh D'Souza. The book is restrained, temperate and devastating.D'Souza's purpose is to expose corruption. He examines intellectual rot at four representative institutions, but his observations could be widely extended. He looks at Stanford University, Howard University, the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley. He finds patterns that are deeply disturbing - patterns of deceit, self-deception, unwarranted guilt and the very best intentions.
Let us stipulate: The intentions of the deceivers are good intentions. They wish to protect black students (and Jewish students, Asian students and women students) from the harm that is done to them by "insensitive" remarks. Because they perceive many political positions as wrong, they would impose new positions that are politically correct.
The reformers desire to replace traditional courses in part with untraditional courses - with courses that would place emphasis upon the cultures of Africa.
All this would be done in the name of "diversity" or "multiculturalism." The restructuring of curricula would be accompanied by a restructuring of the student body itself. At Berkeley this has taken the form of unabashed racial discrimination: Highly qualified white and Asian students are rejected so that less-qualified blacks may be enrolled. Administrators make no bones about it. The policy is deliberate. Quotas must be met according to the color of one's skin. If this be racism - and it is - then let critics make the most of it.
D'Souza defines the movement as "a new cultural imperialism." The noun stems from the Latin root of imperare, to command, and it is in this spirit of dominance that the corrupters have gone to work. If there is insufficient authentic African culture to meet the demands of self-esteem, then culture must be borrowed from ancient Egypt. No black pharaohs? A few must be invented. Not enough first-rate women poets? Let second-raters be taught instead.
The inevitable consequences of this lunacy are as regrettable as the misguided motivation. Sadly, the principal victims are the black students themselves. Those who are genuinely qualified for college work are lumped with blacks who are there solely by reason of their race. Which are which?
Damage also is done to the whole concept of higher education. The theory is to expose inquiring young minds to the experience of knowledgeable old minds and together to let students and their professors pursue truth to its lair. At its best, this is an exciting experience, but the process will work only in an atmosphere of reason and civility. When student radicals break down the door to the dean's office, reason and civility fly out the window.
One lamentable consequence of the new imperialism is that racial incidents seem to occur more frequently than ever. Black students tend to cling together. The manifest hostility of black radicals, fueled by the notion that all whites are inherently "racist," is bound to inflame white students.