Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The New Cultural Revolution: Affirmative Acton’s Price

Yale Students Making Revolution
So the Cultural Revolution-like protests at Missouri and Yale have now spread to Claremont-McKenna and Dartmouth.

Crane Brinton’s The Anatomy of Revolution (1938) explains why--before eventually being crushed in revolution’s "Thermidor" stage--extremists first triumph over moderates:
  • they are "better organized, better staffed, better obeyed." 
  • they have "relatively few responsibilities," while the legal government "has to shoulder some of the unpopularity of the government of the old regime" with "the worn-out machinery, the institutions of the old regime." 
  • the moderates are hindered by their hesitancy to change direction and fight back against the radical revolutionaries, "with whom they recently stood united," in favor of conservatives, "against whom they have so recently risen." 
  • they are drawn to the slogan “no enemies to the Left.” 
  • the moderates are attacked on one side by "disgruntled but not yet silenced conservatives, and the confident, aggressive extremists," on the other. 
  • moderate revolutionary policies can please neither side. 
Sound familiar? If so, and if the past is any guide, the current Cultural Revolution hitting American university campuses has a ways to go before its leaders are frozen.

Still, as Paul Sperry in the conservative New York Post reminds us, today’s student unrest is a pale imitation of what hit U.S. campuses 50 years ago:
The protests of the ’60s had real causes — fighting for civil rights and opposing the draft during an unpopular war. But today’s protesters are posers grasping at faux causes and ginning up pseudo-grievances about things like Halloween costumes and swastikas drawn in bathrooms.
The police dogs, truncheons and firehoses of the civil-rights movement have been reduced to slights, slurs and symbols. Today’s discrimination is “unconscious” or “implicit.” Activists know it exists, they just can’t prove it. It’s “systemic,” yet they can’t find it.
Let me be blunt. The instigators of today’s campus radicalism, especially blacks, are the children and grandchildren of affirmative action, now 50 years old. They are inspired by our angry black president, the first affirmative action child to arrive at the White House.

Conservative black author Shelby Steele, in White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (2006), wrote forthrightly about the failure of affirmative action and its continuing damage to our nation. Steele believes that in the ‘60s, there was no quick answer to America’s
heartless betrayal of democracy where blacks were concerned, the [profound] loss of moral authority. . . In their monochrome whiteness, the institutions of this society -- universities, government agencies, corporations -- became emblems of the very evil America had just acknowledged.
Affirmative action was a false short cut, rapidly allowing white-dominated institutions to shed “white guilt” by turning to policies that favored blacks at the expense of (mostly less privileged) whites.

For blacks, however, Steele asserts affirmative action didn’t work, with no evidence the policy has narrowed the developmental gap between whites and blacks. New Haven black firemen granted promotion over their higher-scoring white counterparts certainly disadvantaged white firemen, but left undeniable the fact that not a single black scored high enough to gain promotion.

Steele writes that blacks suffer from underdevelopment, not discrimination:
Success in modernity will demand profound cultural changes -- changes in child-rearing, a restoration of marriage and family, a focus on academic rigor, a greater appreciation of entrepreneurialism and an embrace of individual development as the best road to group development.
Blacks are too proud to explore openly what Steele calls underdevelopment. That leaves us all perpetuating the language of discrimination and injustice, thereby denying blacks responsibility for taking charge of their own fate as did and do successive waves of American immigrants, whatever their color.  

Comment: Today’s campus Cultural Revolution, following Steele’s book by 9 years, is perpetuating black focus on discrimination and injustice. It does so in place of blacks overcoming the underdevelopment that must be obvious to many affirmative action beneficiaries every day in their university classrooms.

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