After Ralph’s thought-provoking post below, I’d like to take another pot-shot at the multicultural elites who seem to value any other culture more than our own.
One of the things that persistently puzzles me about the multi-cultural crowd is that, at least when I was a TA, they shied away from intellectually rigorous activity such as studying a foreign language. One would think that actually learning to speak a non-Western tongue would do more for true inter-cultural understanding than any pastiche of factoids, half-truths and generalized misinformation about other cultures that is the general Introduction to Foreign Culture claptrap at most Universities.
The cynic in me says that most multi-culturalists don’t go in for a detailed study of a foreign language for three reasons – it would take away the focus from their departments, it’s hard (non-Western languages generally come with non-Western writing systems, and in my experience, students run from those like the plague), and, to Ralph’s point, the more in-depth you study some cultures, the more you are thankful you weren’t born into them. Hardly conducive to the facile moral relativism of the multi-culti crowd.
Instead of useful work, power-hungry multi-culturalists try to enflame the bringing embers of racism into the flames of political gain. Long before Jesse Jackson’s “hymietown” remark, I’ve long suspected that those who scream the most about racism in this current society are either closet racists, cynical opportunists, or both. Not to say that racism doesn’t exist in America, it certainly does. Racism smolders everywhere people of more than one skin hue congregate together. But to think that one can legislate away the moderately low level we have now in the US is dangerous. Like unemployment, there will always be a natural (hopefully low) level of racism in a given society. Eliminating it entirely, requires – as did eliminating unemployment – Soviet methods.
As more fodder for my mental model about cynics in the cultural elite, I caught this link
the other day and I still haven’t gotten over the stupidity: The piece struck me as a way for a journalist who’s been out on maternity leave to get herself noticed before her comeback- cynical opportunism. That alone was disgusting – using her child to do that – but the whole piece smacked of liberal self-loathing being turned inside out and worn as a hair shirt to show public piety: “I’ve got these racist feelings, but look how I’m agonizing over them. Aren’t I special?” Gag. Choke. Puke.
Now, I think of myself as pretty ‘right on’. My home is on the border of the London Republic of Hackney. I’ve been to the Notting Hill Carnival, even if I found the music a bit loud. Yet now I realise what a ‘white’ world I inhabit.
Pretty much every professional in the US and UK lives in a white world, and for a journalist not to realize this is amazingly obtuse, and doesn’t raise my opinion of the MSM one iota. I’m a scientist, and almost every human being I interact with on a daily basis is also a scientist or a quantitative-type businessperson. Therefore, by definition, I inhabit a very white world, despite the fact that very few teams I work with have more than 50% Caucasian* membership. Science is a mentally European activity.
What do I mean by that? More than her almost 30 years of living in America, it is my wife’s scientific training that separates her from her relatives back in Taiwan. Her hard-headed rationality contrasts starkly with their Chinese fatalism and superstition. Her brother, on the other hand, is only one year older and has spent the same amount of time here, but is mired in the immigrant Chinese community and a Buddhist group I consider to be a borderline cult. Despite being a salesman and spending more time interacting with white people than my wife does, he does not inhabit a white world. It did not take the epiphany of childbirth to make me see this. Our journalist friend is either an idiot, or spinning a narrative that does not match with what I’ve observed of reality.
The fatuousness and narcissism displayed by Ms. “Mixed Race Baby” Turner in that article just amazes me. I know whereof I speak, too. I’m as white as it gets (speaking in a very slight Southern twang to boot), with the exception of having grown up attending Mr. A’s church (his real name was Newt Washington – see the picture at the bottom right of this page) every Sunday morning of my youth**. But my wife is of Taiwanese / North Chinese descent, with some Polynesian Taiwan aborigine thrown in there somewhere in the region of the great-grandparents.
Ms. Turner’s faux distress over racism is horse crap, pure and simple. Distrust of the “other” is a basic biological instinct. In times past, when the clan was the strongest social unit, it was a survival trait. It’s how we modulate that instinct that shows how civilized we are. So airing the fact that one feels a tad strange when inter-racial reality spits up on one’s shirt is not to be marveled at, and the suppression of that feeling is nothing to brag about – it’s just what’s expected of a responsible adult who entered into marriage with a person of another race. It only needs to be suppressed once or twice before the child enters your heart as a unique human being, and it shouldn’t be all that strong, but the fact that it pops up is no surprise and the fact that you push it down is no virtue.
Thinking about that biological reaction, and the socially conditioned reactions of other people, to the “dual heritage”*** child is what a responsible parent-to-be should do when trying to figure out how family will give their children the tools to defend themselves from the inevitable taunts. I went through that thought process, and so did my wife. So I have very little patience for lines such as these:
I know the obvious comment is that I must have known how a child of our union would look when I married an Indian man, but it is a wise woman who thinks that far ahead when she falls in love.
I didn’t think about any of this before I got pregnant. I wanted to have a baby. Her colour and culture were immaterial then.
Actually, my wife worried more about the Chinese community’s reaction to our kids than about white racism. The Chinese community has not exactly bought into the PC culture, as demimasque can probably attest. They toss around terms such as ABC (American Born Chinese, often connoting that the subject either can’t read Chinese, or can’t speak it well, or indeed at all), FOB (from Freight On Board, a shipping term, but now said to mean Fresh Off the Boat) for people who dress and act as if they were still deep in Anhui province, to “Banana” – yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
My wife and I thought about this, and we made a plan. We agreed that our kids would have Chinese first names and English middle names, that we would call them by their Chinese names, and that we would do our best to enforce Mandarin-only in our home. I’m barely keeping ahead of my oldest language-wise, but we are sticking to that plan. Many a time when I am upset with the kids I wind up starting and stopping like Bill Cosby’s father. Not because I’m trying to think of a word other than a swear word (well that, too), but because I’m trying to think of any word at all. And my wife still hasn’t taught me how to say “I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it” in Chinese.
What my wife and I realize that more than any other cultural points, for a group of people in exile from its homeland, it’s food and language that hold a culture together. So our kids eat and speak Chinese. It’s amazing how much of a culture is transmitted by the words that you speak. The language skills (and the ability to eat some of the more “unusual” Chinese dishes without flinching) will help blunt the worst of the “half-breed”, “ABC”, and “banana” taunts that come their way from the Chinese****. We are giving them the tools to deal with their situation.
My Indian friends assure me that the Indian equivalent of “Banana” is “Potato”, so I’ve got no truck with Ms. Turner’s agonizing over suddenly realizing that:
In the real world, I fear for my daughter’s sense of self. She has a tiny foot in cultures. How will she negotiate a path between the two?
That was Ms. Turner’s job as a parent to figure out, at least for the first years of her daughter’s life. I feel sorry for the girl, because Ms. Turner does not seem to have a clue. Her best ideas have more to do with surface forms than deep culture:
Part of me thinks I should be playing sitar music to her in her cot, mastering pakoras and serving them dressed in a sari, but that would be fantastically fake coming from me.
Nothing so casual as buying a few CDs and a few yards of cloth will do anything to transmit culture. Food and language, as I said. Make the pakoras and teach her the lingo. Forget the sari. The best thing to do is teach her daughter whatever language is spoken in her husband’s native region. Then there will always be a grudging respect from the Indians (especially when contrasted with full-blood immigrants who don’t speak their culture’s language), and unless the subject is brought up, most whites won’t see anything other than another olive-hued girl.
Nothing gets my wife’s knickers in more of a twist than seeing FOBs speaking only broken English with their kids*****, breaking the cycle of culture. Native Chinese, most adult immigrants, and people with a foot truly in both worlds by virtue of late-childhood immigration, all look down on Chinese people who don’t speak Chinese. I can’t imagine Indians are much different.
But learning to cook in a foreign culture takes persistence and dedication (ask my wife) and learning a language more so (ask me). Neither activity suits the casual multi-culturalist. It takes work, and so takes your mind off of narcissistic projections. It also takes up the time you would otherwise spend beating other people up for their racism.
* Unless you count East Indians as Caucasians, which, technically, you should.
** White people may or may not be able to jump, but we sure don’t do soulful religious music very well. Our Yankee American Baptist church tries to do spirituals every once in a while out of some PC instinct, and, it grates on my musical nerves. Mr. Newt would have laughed if he could have heard it when he was alive. Laugh, and bring his group, the Brothers of Harmony, up to show our congregation how it’s really done.
*** I’m not sure just what that means. I’m dual heritage – German and Scots-Irish – an unholy combination if ever there was – but apparently that doesn’t count.
**** I’m figuring that membership in the DAR and / or Sons of Confederate Veterans will go a long way towards shutting up those Americans who don’t quite go along with PC culture, and so will learning how to fight properly.
***** Well, the 6 year old who insisted on a cheeseburger while everyone else in his family (less than 10 years in America) ate Chinese food came pretty close.