Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mr. Wright

I've been reading a lot about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright lately. The discussions invariably muddle two issues: (1) Wright's angry denunciation of US foreign and domestic policy and (2) Wright's arguments for multiculturalism. I have no problem with his denunciations and anger. Wright, and black Americans generally, have a right to be angry. The history of slavery, segregation, exclusion, violence against black people and, even though things have improved, on going discrimination is something all Americans should be angry about. I agree with Wright's remarks about the "US of KKK"; I agree with "God damn America." Our chickens have indeed come home to roost. This is classic, powerful preaching in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets and I applaud it.

It is his suggestion that black kids and white kids think differently, his mythical afro-centric history, and his identity politics that are objectionable. I argue against this version of multiculturalism in my book The Multiculturalist Mystique: The Liberal Case Against Diversity which is now at last available at

Assimilation gets a bad name first, because when many, perhaps most people talk about "assimilation" they don't really mean it. The notorious case was Australia's "assimilation" policy for its aboriginal people. When it was implemented at least assimilation didn't mean that Aborigines would were supposed to join the world of white Australians as full, equal members. It meant that Aborigines were to be trained up as farm laborers and domestic servants, and learn enough English to take orders. When I say assimilation, I don't mean that.

Secondly, in the US and other receiving countries, for many of the children and grandchildren of immigrants, assimilation de facto means assimilation to what Alejandro Portes calls a "rainbow underclass." There's a good discussion of this in his book Legacies: I don't mean that either.

When I say assimilation I mean assimilation: acculturation and acceptance, as first class, equal citizens, sharing a common culture with other citizens, without any special obligation to identify with ancestral cultures defined by bloodlines.

Assimilation today, assimilation tomorrow, assimilation forever!

1 comment:

Kevin Timpe said...

I'm going to have to order me a copy! I like the cover--did you have any say in it?