Don’t I know it! Frankly, even if I had a good shot at getting a decent academic job at an American university, I don’t think I would take it, for the same reason MacDonald wrote about in a previous blog: “My fate in life is to work at a university. What that means right now is to be completely immersed in the culture of the left.”
The hostility toward White men and Western culture that I noticed got very strong about 1995 is just too much for me. Absolutely everything I’ve observed since only confirms it’s gotten worse — much worse.
For instance, the leading journal in my field recently eulogized a former President of the American Studies Association: “When Emory became an assistant professor at Princeton in 1972, he joined an overwhelmingly White and male academy, one steeped in privileges of tradition and exclusion.” That’s White folks for you. It’s all about exclusion and privilege.
One wonders if he approved of the rate and degree of change during his watch.
The same journal also has a long essay by one Jodi Kim (I assume she’s Korean American) about (White) Americans adopting Asian babies. Representative sentence: “It is also a highly racialized and gendered process implicated in the United States’ imperialist, capitalist modernity and indeed its foundational or constitutive projects of racial formation and ‘nation building’ both domestically and internationally.” Please go back to Korea if you hate your adopted country so much.
Or this: “The films make visible how the conditions of possibility of transracial adoption surface at the disturbing nexus of the successive forced migrations engineered by US and Western capitalist modernity, cold war imperialism in Asia, the White heteronormative bourgeois nuclear family ideal, and the long-standing imperialist desire to ‘save’ the world.” Tranraical adoption is part of Western imperialism engineered by evil “heteronormative” (!) White people trying to “save” the world? Okay, let’s send all the non-White children back to their Asian homeland.
And this all comes within the first two pages.
Interesting footnote from the essay: “Since 1954, over 200,000 children have been adopted from South Korea, including 150,000 sent to the US and the remainder to Europe.”
Recently, China has become the main source for such adoptions. Why? As a footnote tells us: “Almost all transnationally adopted Chinese babies are abandoned girls.” Golly, who’s the bad guy in this tale, the Whites who adopted them or the non-Whites who abandoned thousands of babies?
I’m not surprised by such writing, though, since it is so routine in the humanities in America. Over a decade ago, for example, I read social scientist Derek Freeman’s account of debunking Margaret Mead’s Franz Boas-inspired book. The title of Freeman’s account is The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research. Here’s a telling story about the sad state of social “science” these days.
In an earlier book, Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, Freeman ignited a firestorm in the world of anthropology by challenging, in one professor’s words, “the Mother-Goddess of American Anthropology.” From the publication of that book in 1983, Freeman “was subjected to a highly emotional and, at times, flagrantly ad hominem campaign that reached its apogee in Chicago during the Eighty Second Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, when . . . there was a special session (to which [he] was not invited) devoted to the evaluation of [his] book.” Descriptions of the meeting from those who attended ranged from “a sort of grotesque feeding frenzy” to “I felt I was in a room with 200 people ready to lynch you.”
Whatever happened to dispassionate search for truth and the advancement of science?
Another excellent point MacDonald makes concerns both the brother- and sisterhood of victims, and its hierarchy with Jews at the top:
What’s striking is that Jews and other non-Europeans wear their ethnic identity and sense of victimhood proudly and explicitly. The Whites typically have their own sense of victimhood — as gays or as women. In my experience, the heterosexual White males become adept at effusive expressions of guilt in order to be accepted into the system. In this culture of victimhood, all the rewards go to those who make alliances with other victims.
Zoom in on another tribute in our field’s journal to a fallen multiculturalist, a person who can best be described as the patron saint of American studies. I really don’t think you readers need this pointed out, but the author hates the idea that America has any White identity at all. She is writing in tribute to a fellow Chicana, “internationally recognized cultural theorist, creative writer, and independent scholar Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa.”
Remember, this is the leading journal in the field. That means that publishing there is the route to tenure and recognition. The route to tenure is to wallow in one’s victimhood, and in the victimhood stakes, this woman is thrice blessed — female, non-White, and lesbian: the diversity trifecta all in one person.
I quote at length only to give you a feel for what is going on in the academy these days:
I was introduced to your borderlands theory at the same time that I left the El Paso/Juárez border, never realizing how your work would impact my own scholarship in a field that I, at first, found as White as a midwestern winter.
On May 21, 1980, almost exactly twenty-four years before your death, you wrote “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers,” in which you visualized other women of color engaged in the radical act of writing and theorizing about our own lives, contemplating our raced/sexed/gendered/ classed realities and histories, and reclaiming our right to write. “Forget the room of one’s own,” you wrote, “write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus or the welfare line, on the job or during meals, between sleeping or waking.” . . .
First, I should admit: I knew nothing about either you or the field until 1985, when I began my Ph.D. in American studies at the University of Iowa. Once there, I was dazed by cold and culture shock. From what I gleaned in my classes, “doing” American studies meant reading White male historians, White male literary critics, and great White male literature, trying to find the immanent “American” mind and character—a concept so riddled with problematic assumptions about what “American” meant that I was ready to pack up my bags and run for home.
I can’t tell you the intellectual malaise I wallowed in that first semester, feeling for the first time in my life like a cultural alien in a White wilderness. Little did I know I was in the throes of what you called the nepantla state, “that uncertain terrain one crosses when moving from one place to another . . . to be disoriented in space is to experience bouts of disassociation of identity, identity breakdowns and buildups.” Little did I realize I was experiencing my first rite of passage as an academic border crosser.
And then, you came to town. I couldn’t believe it, a tejana fronteriza dyke like me, speaking the same three tongues I speak. Lenguas de fuego, you named them, tongues of fire—the queer tongue, the decolonial tejana tongue, and the forked tongue of the border. You were finishing up with Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza (a doctoral dissertation, if I ever saw one) and were trying out some of your theories—La Facultad, the Shadow Beast, the Coatlicue State, Mestiza Consciousness—on a multicultural college audience in Iowa City. Even among all those maricones and tortilleras (who knew I would find such queer Latinidad in Iowa?) your lecture settled over us like cosmic dust from another planet. The Whites in the room, even the liberal ones wearing Guatemalan shirts under their parkas, shifted uncomfortably in their seats; the more honest ones stared at you as though you’d just dropped a crop circle in their cornfield.
I saw how the queers, the rape survivors, and the people of color responded with recognition to your idea about a certain faculty of mind that people who live in the margins develop early in life, a “survival tactic,” you called it, that teaches us to become aware of the racist, the rapist, or the homophobe in the room before that person even approaches. The African American and Latina professors, whatever their sexuality, saw themselves reflected in that beastly mirror of self-doubt and self-hate that you explained was a consequence of internalized racism and sexism. As a border dweller myself, I completely identified with your discussion on linguistic terrorism and the way those of us who are bred in the borderlands develop an ability to negotiate two languages and two cultures as a way of protecting ourselves against cultural schizophrenia.
But when you got to the part about how identity must be fluid like the river, how we must shed our skins by entering into the Coatlicue state of death and renewal, the immersion into crisis when an old self dies and a new self awakens with a tolerance for contradictions and ambiguity and a talent for seeing through “serpent and eagle eyes”—you lost us. More accurately, you plunged us into that nepantla state.
Now ask yourself if the writer of the above — or the intended audience — can ever gain freedom from the constraints MacDonald identified. To wit: “In the humanities, it’s a lost cause. The triumvirate of the Frankfurt School, psychoanalysis, and Marxism is impervious to scientific findings and is intensely political; it will strenuously resist significant change.”
Since I’m skewering the academy in which I’ve spent so many years, let me also allude to Christopher Donovan’s current TOO article “A Window on the Warping of Whites: The Swarthmore College Alumni Magazine.”
To be honest, I share the same experience about my alma mater that he writes about Swarthmore. My school is a good second-tier private institution, one with a historically White ethnic/religious background that continues to this day. Yet it tries to go more upscale by aping the same trends Donovan highlights. In every issue they try to cram more photos of blacks and articles about Jews into the publication than I find even remotely warranted.
Yes, Donovan gets it exactly right: “What’s so amazing . . . is the totality of intellectual takeover.”
Again, this is not new. As a thirtysomething in 1992, I returned from six years of working abroad and did an unpaid internship at the leading pro-American manufacturing think tank in D.C. The other nine or so interns were college kids who just wanted to play softball with other interns during the hot Washington summer. Few of them even knew what the think tank dealt with.
When they found out about the pro-American slant of the think tank (a car maker—since gone bankrupt—was the biggest funder), they nearly rebelled.
They came from Cornell, Harvard, Bates . . . and Swarthmore.
So I think I’ll remain aloof from the American academy and earn my bread elsewhere. I don’t want to work somewhere where I’m always unfairly attacked because I was born a White male. Plus I don’t want to be around people teaching or educated at places like Swarthmore—or any other “good” university.
Needless to say, I send not a penny to any of the three universities from which I gained degrees. I’ll let others fund those glossy photos of high-achieving African Americans and “socially active” Jews.