Following are two prior blogs and a bill that is before the California legislature that would further mandate the multicultural teaching of history in California schools. It is recommended that you consult them either before or after reading this new blog.
During the early 1970s, a complaint was made to the Pacifica Foundation’s local advisory board regarding one of my collages for The Sour Apple Tree (my weekly program on the politics of culture). The complaint objected to the mocking of Asian-Americans because an actor had improvised an allegedly offensive riff on the subject of Japanese swords, which were then on exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In my ignorance, I thought that it was bizarre to aestheticize a weapon, no matter how beautifully crafted.
But what did I know? The age of political correctness was upon us, and any organized group of angry ethnics or “races” could make trouble if the media were not relaying “positive” images of their group. Here was the triumph of “identity politics” in all its manifestations. Disappeared were the material facts and institutional structures and practices (including ideals) that made history.
The identity politics lobby, following the precepts of German Idealist epistemology, argued that language and images were constitutive of “reality” and that prior racisms and discrimination could be erased through the presentation of “strong” “role-models” in the schools and media. Or, following the lead of earlier opponents of “prejudice,” if there was a bad person of color,there must be a good person of color in order to achieve “balance,” and as my dissertation director Alex Saxton used to say, that “good” minority group member was in league with the [fascist] ruling whites. The “bad” [black, red, or yellow] man was ipso facto someone to be admired for his defiance. Enter the criminal as hero and the romantic identification with rebels of color, the badder the better.
As I have written here before, the advent of social history in the hands of populist-progressives, the Stalinist Left and then the New Left of the 1960s, displaced from the curriculum the record of actual decision makers of history (say the statesmen and generals studied by von Ranke), for these were now prejudice-tainted “literary sources” who covered their tracks, lying even to their personal diaries. The obvious populism of this move was not a departure from the practices of the “consciousness industry,” for it had always been directed to its mass audience, which had buttons to be pushed—class resentment, a suspicion of Wall Street and bankers, and of competing savages (including the wild man within)–and the designated monsters were standing athwart the path to upward mobility.
I have traced on this website the German Romantic influences that led progressives to adopt their collectivist lingo as part of their view that “national character” could be ascribed to every race or nation. That this “cultural nationalism” was racialist in its very conception is not widely seen, and it now rules the anti-imperialist Left and the school curricula in California and other states. The U.S.A., rather than being an exemplar of equality before the law, self-correction and (in its Puritan origins) republican simplicity, became conflated with the most vicious totalitarian societies or with the rigid war-crazed aristocracies of the Old World. For these racist “anti-racists”, there are no boundaries between past and present: the achievements of Freud and Einstein are supposed to shed their grace on me, but such ancestor worship does not help me master life skills. In spite of “Jewish” triumphs in psychology and physics, the rampaging White Man continues to infect and infest all “peoples of color,” and if we look very closely, we can often detect a Jewish nose, dragon claws, and a tail upon that oppressor.