December 13, 2010 By Ashley Thorne
NAS member Roger Scruton has a fascinating article in the most recent issue of the American Spectator, “Multiculturalism, R.I.P.” He declares that the reign of the ideology that has dominated political language and education for decades is...over.
Indeed, he writes, the clouds of multiculturalism have lifted and we’ve emerged into the sunlight at last. But how did we get here? Scruton asserts that national leaders are finally beginning to recognize that culture and race are entirely different.
During these decades of multiculturalism, all cultural practices were deemed good and attachable to Western culture. This attitude of unending optimism (“wishful thinking” as Scruton calls it) about foreign cultures led to an equation of culture with race. In turn, rejecting or questioning a foreign practice was called “racism.”
The embrace of all aspects of all cultures ultimately led to some embarrassing hypocrisies. Not all cultures espouse the idea of justice and dignity in the treatment of human beings—a principle the West holds sacred:
It is culture, not nature, that tells a family that their daughter who has fallen in love outside the permitted circle must be killed, that girls must undergo genital mutilation if they are to be respectable, that the infidel must be destroyed when Allah commands it. You can read about those things and think that they belong to the pre-history of our world. But when suddenly they are happening in your midst, you are apt to wake up to the truth about the culture that advocates them. You are apt to say, that is not our culture, and it has no business here. That is what Europeans are now saying -- not just a few crazies, but everyone. And the multiculturalists are reluctantly compelled to agree with them.
Scruton writes that the political class is finally willing to insist that immigrants adapt to the culture instead of inviting them to perpetuate their former customs over and against those of the land to which they have come.
Now if multiculturalism is dead, what of the accompanying ideology “diversity,” which has enjoyed a concurrent reign? Diversity isn’t going down without a fight – at least not in higher education. For instance, on November 2, Arizona voters approved Proposition 107 which will prohibit racial preferences in admissions in the state’s public universities. University of Arizona president Robert Shelton immediately issued statements denouncing Prop. 107 and affirming UA’s undying commitment to “a diverse community.” So while the outside world has opted for an end to racial discrimination, the academic world, as usual, remains a step behind.
Diversity, though still a stronghold in colleges and universities, does seem to have largely spent itself. But its successor, “sustainability,” is an ideology far more expansive, more demanding, and more accusing—and it’s making its bid to become the “foundation of all learning and practice in higher education.” Read more about this evolution in Peter Wood’s recent article “From Diversity to Sustainability: How Campus Ideology is Born.”
So as multiculturalism in the political realm kicks the bucket, new dogma stands ready to take its place. How long until embarrassing hypocrisies suddenly become clear to the sustainatopians?
Perhaps I am in error for viewing political correctness, multiculturalism, diversity, and sustainability as far more organically bound together than Roger Scruton and others may. I regard these four, and perhaps other variations depending upon contextualization, to be something more like a hydra-like multi-headed beast. It seems to me that the four are so organically connected that the beast manifests itself with in different forms, but all of the forms are inseparably and organically the same beast. As my research and writing show, I have always regarded “multiculturalism and diversity” to be twin heads of the same beast. The one cannot exist without the other.
Hence, I wonder if Roger Scruton’s announcement of multiculturalism’s demise is not quite premature.