John Leo has an article "Let the Segregation Commence", in this month's City Journal that talks about the numerous commencement ceremonies that go on at UCLA, my alma mater. Apparently there is a special graduation to accommodate every possible identy group:
Some students are presumably eligible for four or five graduations. A gay student with a Native American father and a Filipino mother could attend the Asian, Filipino, and American Indian ceremonies, plus the mainstream graduation and the Lavender Graduation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students.
That is just so special, I hardly know what to say.
However, I will try to come up with something.
The usual rationalization of of all this "diversity"--which as Leo notes is actually a form of racial, ethnic, and sexist segregation/discrimination--is that the smaller ceremonies have more meaning for the individuals than the larger one that everyone could attend.
Okay. I might buy into that argument except for the fact that they don't really believe that rationalization themselves.
Do you know how I know that last statement to be true?
Just imagine the inarticulate rage; the unbelievable rancor and all the moral indignation that would ensue if Jews demanded their own special graduation ceremony under the auspices of the University? Or if there were a "Caucasian Male" society that held commencement exercises using UCLA facilities? Or say, an "Aryan" graduation?
When it comes out of the mouths of the leftoids, "celebrating diversity" becomes just another way to villify America and Western civilization. Leo goes on to explain what I also think is the real reason why this seemingly innocuous silliness is a cover-up for the PC neo-marxist trendy crowd on campus:
But the core reason for separatist graduations is the obvious one: on campus, assimilation is a hostile force, the domestic version of American imperialism. On many campuses, identity-group training begins with separate freshman orientation programs for nonwhites, who arrive earlier and are encouraged to bond before the first Caucasian freshmen arrive. Some schools have separate orientations for gays as well. Administrations tend to foster separatism by arguing that bias is everywhere, justifying double standards that favor identity groups.
Four years ago Ward Connerly, then a regent of the University of California, tried to pass a resolution to stop funding of ethnic graduations and gay freshman orientations. He changed his mind and asked to withdraw his proposal, but the regents wanted to vote on it and defeated it in committee 6–3.
No major objections to ethnic graduations have emerged since. As in so many areas of American life, the preposterous is now normal.
As for the smaller ceremonies giving student's more meaning (i.e., they feel more special), I am also fairly certain that racism, sexism,homophobia and ethnic bashing have more meaning for the people who engage in those activities, too.
What I think is happening here is that underneath that "do-gooder" PC sensitivity there lurks a profound racist, sexist, and homophobic core. The left has been very successful at camoflauging that core of intellectual and moral bankruptcy with the their gradiose, and so very well-meaning, rationalizations and psychological maneuvers.
Let me quote from an earlier essay I wrote on the subject of this intellectual and moral bankruptcy:
What we have witnessed over the 30- 45 years since the Left ascended to dominate political thought in the mid 20th century, is its rapid and unprecedented decline into wholesale intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The noble values and ideals they once stood for have been abandoned; and almost as if a surreal cosmic joke was being played on them, they have—without even noticing!-- embraced the exact opposite of what they once stood for.
Where once they stood for freedom; they now enable dictatorships and apologize for tyrants. Where once they sought to bring justice to the world; they now defend horrific acts of mass murder and enslavement. Where once they rightly demanded equal opportunity, they have embraced all kinds of racial quotas and discriminatory practices and demand equality of outcome. Where once they sought to empower the weak; they are now instrumental in maintaining and expanding their victimhood.
After all, how can you be a “champion of the oppressed” unless you maintain and nurture an oppressed class that will always require your services to help them?
This rather obvious fact, of course, goes a long way to explaining the rather peculiar attitude that the Left has toward any members of its various victim groups who actually escape victimhood and become successful, achieving and independently thinking adults! The previously altruistic and idealistic worldview is now merely a narcissistic one—and a malignantly narcissistic one at that—wholly preoccupied with the possession and retention of power for an elite few.
What was once a concern that equal opportunity be afforded to all members of our society has run amok and is now a shrill, insistent demand that all outcomes be exactly equal... or else.
Let me give an example of the transition from IDEA to IDEOLOGY; and this example will serve as my prototype argument that is applicable to all the left's identified special “victim” groups:
Once upon a time, the Women’s Movement –and the civil rights movement in general-- proudly supported and encouraged their respective constituencies to stop being victims and to stand up for their rights under the law. They demanded equal opportunity under the law, because that was the promise of America reflected in the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
For too long, that promise had been withheld from these groups. The greatness of America lies in the belief that women and blacks – and, in fact, any minority—should enjoy the same basic freedoms and equal opportunity as the majority. America was founded on the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every individual. This was a very big idea-- a extremely important idea—because underneath it was the key proposition that all human beings regardless of their gender or color or religion or ethnic background should enjoy the blessings of our liberty and be free to pursue their happiness.
That idea was the promise of America. It was one of the greatest tragedies of history that, in trying to find a way to compromise with the slaveholding states to form the Union, our Founding Fathers (with the exception of Ben Franklin) permitted slavery and allowed discrimination against women in a document that promoted "universal" human freedom and dignity. It was interesting to observe similar problems in the negotiations of the Iraq constitution.
In all fairness to those Founders—who were light-years ahead of their time—they at least left a way to amend those wrongs and the beginning of that correctional process was the Civil War that nearly destroyed the Union. The mid-20th century became the final intellectual battleground for righting both defects in the US application of its Constitution.
Since my own experience over the years has been primarily with the women’s movement , I will share my observations of that movement over the last 30+ years.
"I am woman, hear me roar--in numbers too big to ignore...." That was the motto then, and I was once proud to be a card-carrying feminist. That was when feminist intellectuals argued that women need NOT be victims; and feminist activists told all women to stand up and live up to the best within themselves; and insisted they be judged not on their gender, but on their merit and capabilities.
NOTE TO MODERN FEMINISTS: There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the very same women’s movement that I supported back then was instrumental in mobilizing and encouraging women to reach for the stars. One small measure of the success of that movement is that most medical school classes today are 50% or greater composed of women! There is no systematic discrimination any more that keeps women out of medicine. Women are in every medical specialty. They have become presidents of universities and professional societies; deans of medical schools and chairwomen of departments. This is really wonderful. And these gains have been made in almost every profession and area of human endeavor.
The bad news is that the Feminist Movement never realized that the mission had been mostly accomplished. The women who want to become professionals--or do anything for that matter--can do it--including becoming wives and mothers if they choose. The war is won, but the Feminist Movement continues to battle on, oblivious to that fact.
The main justification for the existence of the women’s movement these days is to support and expand the cult of victimhood that they have created among women. Modern feminists have become the mother, once happy to nurture her child and help her leave the nest and go joyfully off to lead her own life; but now extremely bitter and resentful about the fact that her daughter doesn't need her anymore. Feminists have now dedicated their lives to convincing women that they really don't have any power; aren't capable of living and working equally among men; and encouraging them in demanding the "rights" that will ensure women who embrace their party line will be regarded by any person of reason and responsibility as complete losers and whiners.
Because today "feminists" (and today, I use the term with contempt) have a strict party line. Apparently, if you are not a Democrat, or more generally, a person on the left side of the political spectrum, then you are not a woman who counts. If Rosa Parks made a statement for freedom today, and (God help her) she was a...Republican, well, you know what would happen. The same thing that happened to Condi Rice and is happening to Michael Steele.
If you are the Secretary of State in a Republican Administration and happen to be a woman--and not only that, a black woman, you don't count (as either a woman or a black). If you are a Republican nominee for the Judiciary and a woman—you don’t count.
In fact, it turns out that if you happen to disagree with them on any issue you don’t count and are instantly labeled a traitor to your gender; and their most vile and derogatory remarks are reserved especially for you.
Indeed, the Feminist Movement of today is a bizarre parody of the women's movement that once supported and encouraged women like me back in the 70's. Like the mother I mentioned above, this group has now become outraged that I and others like me have excelled and dared to have my own ideas about how things should be in the world. Dared to disagree with them. Dared to grow up and live my own life.
Feminists today are not happy campers....Where once they wanted to erase the real barriers that prevented women from being all they could be; now, the feminists demanded that reality itself must bow to their demands. They insist that real biological or physiological differences between women and men don’t exist and that to address these differences is blatant sexism. They have basically identified reality itself as one of the key “oppressors” of women.
To demonstrate this estrangement from reality, all you have to do is recall the ridiculous image of a feminist academic actually swooning at the mere mention of the possibility that such biological differences might play a role in women’s lives.
You can't make such self-parody up.
Now I ask you. Haven't these women become totally irrelevant? And not only are they irrelevant, but they stand in the way of any real research, understanding, and progress that in the long-run might advance the cause of all women.
And, make no mistake about the consequences of such profound psychological denial, delusion and displacement. On the banal and "feel good" side of the spectrum of consequences, you have the preposterous and almost funny multitude of politically correct commencement exercises at UCLA.
But the more serious and catastrophic consequences of the mentality that brings you "diversity" is the specter of sectarian violence we see in Iraq between the Sunnis and the Shia; and the bloodbath between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza.
The same mentality was/is behind the bloodbath in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants; and even the gang wars between the Crips and the Bloods. Everywhere you look, in fact, it is this same sort of overemphasis on the differences between people that inevitably leads to the mayhem and murders.
Once our universities and colleges used to provide a counter to these differences by being a place where the diversity of ideas was all that mattered; where it didn't matter what your ethnic, cultural and racial background was because you were all part of the family of mankind and your ideas would stand or fall only when examined under the bright light of reason, truth and reality.
But now the university is a place that emphasizes the differences and shoves them in everyone's faces. Ideas are dependent on which group you come from and can be discredited merely if you are from the "wrong" group or if you support unpopular (i.e., if the majority in a poll disagrees with you) ideas.
Don't get me wrong. I don't happen to think all these students are consciously aware of all the negative and destructive emotions that they are supporting under the convenient cover of the political left's multicultural diversity claptrap. And, once upon a time, the real celebration of the wonderful differences that exist between individuals, nations, and races was also a way of celebrating the various individual and cultural strengths that each brings to the Famiy of Man.
America was a melting pot of all these cultural and individual contributions. If the leftists have their way, we will become, not a melting pot of combined strengths; but a collection of diverse victims, all shouting at once their incessant and narcissistic demands for special treatment and entitlement.
In the hands of the socialist left, whose ideology perverts every normal and healthy attitude an individual might have toward his fellow humans, it is impossible to celebrate "diversity" anymore without also taking a political aim at America--and Western civilization in general--both of which are notably excluded under the diversity umbrella, and branded as the source of all evil in the world. In the Gospel according to the neo-fascist Marxists it is perfectly ok to be racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, anti-American, and anti-Western civilization--as long as you say you stand for some variation of the leftoid multicultural manifesto.
E pluribus umun? Sorry, no way to get there if you start out on the left.