YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 2, 2013

Groupiness, group-think, and “race”

EyeshapesThe close attention that the media are giving to the George Zimmerman trial in Florida is being justified by reporters because the verdict may trigger civil unrest in the form of “race riots.” Thus it is assumed that politicized “blacks” and “Hispanics” are potential mobs, like guns cocked and ready to shoot.

Yesterday I asked some Facebook friends what they thought “race” and/or “racism” meant.  I got some intriguing replies (several amazed me), that will be answered here.

First and foremost, no Russian revolutionary deployed the notion of “race” to divide their capitalist enemies. Marx had some nasty things to say about Jewish money and hucksterism; he was also demeaning about “the idiocy of rural life.” Lenin, influenced by J. A. Hobson, took up Hobson’s  anti-imperialism and, like Hobson, blamed wars on a ring of international Jews in finance and the media. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.)

In his own imagination, Lenin was defending the colonized victims of capitalist imperialism, and many a New Leftist or post-colonialist, sought to defend “the Other” from the depredations of evil white people in Europe and America. (On formulations of “the Other” see https://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/.) As good Marxist-Leninists they were “anti-racists”.  Until the New Left period, communists were ardent foes of “racism” along with antifascist liberals like Julian Huxley who sought to criticize the assumptions of racism and even ethnicity. (See We Europeans (1936). Huxley and Haddon argued that the original meaning of “ethnos” signified a given population, with no intimation of group characteristics transmitted through heredity.

Which brings me to “racism” as it was taught to me in graduate school. Everyone knows that physical variations in skin color and susceptibility to diseases characterize different human groups as they have evolved.  But “racists” take that further: they create a hierarchy of “races” in which they claim that each race has particular mental capacities, emotional, and moral characteristics that pertain to every individual in that “race.” (For Herder’s counter-Enlightenment project in developing the notion of the rooted cosmopolitan see https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/. Such thinking, amplified throughout the 19th Century and afterwords, led straight to Hitler and the notion of the racially pure “organic nation” or “people’s community.”)

The notion that communists of any sect put “race” above “class” as a way of predicting the future is ludicrous. It was certain liberal and New Left American historians, contemplating the expansionists of the 18th and 19th centuries, who collapsed “class” into “race.” The U.S. field is still divided over this matter, with a very few still admitting class struggle to the classroom, while others prefer “racial” struggle to explain the horror of “American identity.”  (Gender and Nature got added to that model, sometime during the 1970s. See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/. It is true that some leftists applauded “whiteness studies” in order to conform to Leninism. Why the Left  has not outed black supremacist doctrines as advanced by James Cone puzzles me, for “black skin privilege” is a contradiction in their social theory. See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/. )


There was a time when people threw around the word “race” to signify any group of people, for instance, the English race, the French race, or any other group. Throughout this website I have criticized the notion of national character, which can only be valid to a limited extent, i.e., owing to the laws and traditions of any particular people or peoples in this oddly fractured world that is often divided up by diplomats into internally incoherent “nation-states” as spoils of war.

Multiculturalism, as I have explained ad nauseum, is covertly racist while pretending to be anti-racist.  MC is groupiness at its most lethal. Anyone can spot a hater, but the racialist discourse of progressives is harder for most people to decode.  Beware of “professionals” whether these be social psychologists, teachers, textbook writers, or other advocates of groupiness, for they look not into the minds and emotions of unique individuals, but make broad generalizations about group minds and group-think.  Compare Freud to Carl Jung and you get the picture. Freud dealt with suffering individuals; Jung with racially-specific archetypes. One was a would-be healer, the other a quack, whose occasional formulation of universal archetypes was a sop to his liberal followers. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/. )

Such quackery could kill us all. We are one species, and humanity (though we may differ in how we view conflict or how we identify the source of evil) is objectively linked together, forever.  



May 28, 2011

Diane Ravitch and the higher “moderation”

Diane Ravitch with Jon Stewart, March 2011

[Added 5-29-2011: As I write this, the UFT and the NAACP are attacking charter schools and supporting multiculturalism.] Diane Ravitch (often considered the most astute historian and critic of educational reform) is now an opponent of charter schools.   This is how she ends her history of conflict in education policy in New York City:

[Ravitch, The Great School Wars, New York City, 1805-1973: A History of the Public Schools as Battlefield of Social Change (Basic Books, 1974):] “While the language of school wars relates to educational issues, the underlying contest will continue to reflect fundamental value clashes among discordant ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious groups. And this very fact underlines the importance of comity in the politics of education—comity, that basic recognition of differences in values and interests and of the desirability of reconciling these differences peacefully which the school itself aims to teach. The effort to advance comity, in educational affairs and in the affairs of the larger society, has always been at the heart of public education. Whatever their failings, whatever their accomplishments, the public schools have been and will be inescapably involved in the American search for a viable definition of community” (p.404).

Ravitch is writing from the higher moderation and hence inflicting the double bind that has been the theme of this website.  Yes, we have “fundamental value clashes”, but properly managed by a professionally disinterested elite, comity and community are attainable goals despite “discordant ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious groups.” Left out of this volatile yet potentially cooperative crucible is “class” difference. Yet it is upper class delinquency that she frequently mentions earlier in the book as the source of substandard ghetto schools in the big cities. Nowhere does she mention the unbounded search for truth as the aim of public education, nor does she criticize the notion of race, for that would offend parties to the Grand Reconciliation of E Pluribus Unum that Ravitch is advocating to the reader of her “history.” Ravitch does not want to be another Captain Ahab or any other opponent of state-imposed harmony.** Ravitch is no daughter of Eve, eating the forbidden apple of the Tree of Knowledge. Moral relativism does not disturb her sleep. Or perhaps it does, for it is my impression that she understands the contradictions in her work, but has chosen to paper them over for reasons I cannot fathom. This is a very insightful writer, and what I say here should not diminish her positive contributions.

Do I exaggerate about her moderation? Here is one section of her Wikipedia entry: “ Vincent N. Parrillo, author of Diversity in America, wrote, “She, too, emphasized a common culture but one that incorporated the contributions of all racial and ethnic groups so that they can believe in their full membership in America’s past, present, and future. She envisioned elimination of allegiance to any specific racial and/or ethnic group, with emphasis instead on our common humanity, our shared national identity, and our individual accomplishments.”

But racial theory is the sworn enemy to common humanity, let alone individuality: ask any “diversity” advocate. In the olden days when Hitler’s racial state was on the march, there was a significant debate in the West regarding the very notion of “race.” Yes, there were obvious physical variations among “races”, but to attribute common mental and character traits that were passed down through the genes was considered either proto-Nazi or misguided Lamarckianism. Even “ethnicity” was seen as a misunderstanding of the ancients (especially Herodotus), who, according to Julian Huxley in We Europeans, used ethnos to refer solely to a particular population, with no implication of national character or any other type of “national identity.”

Such beliefs in a shared bond between members of a “race” or “ethnicity” can only be mystical, not grounded in empirical fact. Yet that does not stop the “historians” of racial or ethnic conflict from writing books and playing leading roles in the formulation of national, state, and local policy, as is the case with Dr. Ravitch, or her humanist predecessor Robert M. Hutchins, whom she cites favorably in the last chapter of her big book, and in passing in other synoptic works. (See Hutchins and his colleague Paul Hoffman illustrating https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/. Also https://clarespark.com/2011/07/17/literary-criticism-ravitch-variant/.)

If such historians of education are going to do the work usually done by empiricist historians, then they should do history, not theology.** As a subsidiary issue, freedom in the classroom is at stake, namely the willingness of the teacher to encourage the full range of debate where controversial matters are concerned, even if the students do not reach an agreeable consensus or “compromise” (see “comity” one of Ravitch’s favorite words).

Ravitch wanted to bring “different” communities together, though her means remain utopian. Today, because of the alliance between radical intellectuals of the Left with militant cultural nationalists (an alliance burnished in the late 1960s, but echoing Leninism), the project of the Left and masochistic Left-liberals is no longer community control in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, but the political imperative to demonstrate that foreign and domestic policies of the U.S. government are outgrowths of some essential American project of imperialism, patriarchy, capitalism, ecocide, racism and so on as the New Americanists claim (e.g. William Spanos Jr.) against the prior notion of American exceptionalism (which had to do with advancement through merit, not hereditary status). Such are the wages of the moderate men, or, as I prefer to name them, the corporatist liberals. Instead of incorporating dissenters and other troublemakers to defuse their militancy through “inclusion,” they have yielded the field to America’s most determined enemies. And it is the latter who have rehabilitated the once discredited notion of “race.”

For a related short blog, see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/.

*[Ahab speaking in “The Quarter-Deck”:] “Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.”

**After many chapters relating the internal contradictions of the evolving civil rights movement (e.g., color-blindness vs. color consciousness), Ravitch ends one of her essays with this appeal to “spirit”: “As a people, we are still far from that sense of common humanity to which the civil rights movement appealed. We may yet find that just such a spirit is required to advance a generous and broad sense of the needs and purposes of American society as a whole.” (See The Schools We Deserve, p.259.) This is a thoroughly idealistic conception that there is a “spirit” or any such entity as “American society as a whole.” Ravitch reminds me of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. who fretted about the fragmentation of America, wishing for unity even as material interests drive us apart. In another book, The Troubled Crusade, she writes that ” literacy” should be the aim of education, but does not spell out whether that skill should decode propaganda and false ideas. I gather that for Ravitch, literacy signifies that knowledge that advances “the public interest.” As a fan of Hutchins, she must ally herself with the Platonic Guardians–an antidemocratic and ultimately anti-intellectual position.

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