Intellectuals and Race: Part IV

By:  Thomas Sowell
03/15/2013
       
Intellectuals and Race: Part IV

Multiculturalism, like the caste system, paints people into the corner where they happened to have been born. But at least the caste system does not claim to benefit those at the bottom.

Among the many irrational ideas about racial and ethnic groups that have polarized societies over the centuries and around the world, few have been more irrational and counterproductive than the current dogmas of multiculturalism.

Intellectuals who imagine that they are helping racial or ethnic groups that lag behind by redefining their lags out of existence with multicultural rhetoric are in fact leading them into a blind alley.

Multiculturalism is a tempting quick fix for groups that lag by simply pronouncing their cultures to be equal, or "equally valid," in some vague and lofty sense. Cultural features are just different, not better or worse, according to this dogma.

Yet the borrowing of particular features from other cultures — such as Arabic numerals that replaced Roman numerals, even in Western cultures that derived from Rome — implies that some features are not simply different but better, including numbers. Some of the most advanced cultures in history have borrowed from other cultures, because no given collection of human beings has created the best answers to all the questions of life.

Nevertheless, since multiculturalists see all cultures as equal or "equally valid," they see no justification for schools to insist that black children learn standard English, for example. Instead, each group is encouraged to cling to its own culture and to take pride in its own past glories, real or imaginary.

In other words, members of minority groups that lag educationally, economically or otherwise are to continue to behave in the future as they have in the past — and, if they do not get the same outcomes as others, it is society's fault. That is the bottom line message of multiculturalism.

George Orwell once said that some ideas are so foolish that only an intellectual could believe them. Multiculturalism is one of those ideas. The intelligentsia burst into indignation or outrage at "gaps" or "disparities" in educational, economic or other outcomes — and denounce any cultural explanation of these group differences as "blaming the victim."

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