Long before Barack Obama become President, the Republican party has been accused of being racist. I guess it’s because conservatives advocate policies that don’t transfer wealth from one group of people to another that’s the cause of this shrill shriek. In a similar vein, the Left could argue that conservative parents who think it’s a good idea to do your homework could be called “kidists”. Clearly those parents hate their kids.
However, since Barack Obama IS the President, the case against conservatives being labelled as racists has increased. It seems that not one single critique of the President or his policies can be leveled without the hammer of race being raised to combat that critique.
The most recent example of this phenomenon is when Rick Perry referred to the debt as a “black-cloud”. Ed Schultz jumped on the occasion and labeled the man a racist for his racist comments. Normally I would say that Ed is just an entertainer trying to make a living and using what he can to do so. However, this isn’t an isolated case, this is systemic, this is premeditated and this is a strategy.
Only look back to Obama’s 2008 campaign when he mentioned that:
“…you know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”
He knew it then, he knows it now. He signaled it then and the folks have followed.
The problem is, fewer and fewer people are buying it:
ONE of the most dispiriting aspects of going through university as a humanities major in the mid 1990s was the insistence on viewing everything—or at least every work of literature—through the prisms of race, class and gender. It turned the pleasurable act of reading into a tawdry little detective game, in which students were expected to ferret out every conceivable shred of “evidence”, plausible or not, for bias on the part of the author, the publisher, society, etc. Offer precocious undergraduates the chance to rail against society’s (read: their parents’) hidden biases and they will surely take it, but these readings were for the most part boring, wrong and trivial.
All of which is by way of saying that I have a great deal of sympathy for Reihan Salam’s argument against reductionism. He begins by giving Ed Schultz a well-deserved raspberry for imputing racist sentiment to Rick Perry’s reference to debt as “a black cloud” (boneheaded as Mr Schultz’s comment may be, it is hard to wholly deplore something that led to such a great Daily Show sketch). “Many on the left are convinced that Perry must in his heart of hearts be a racist,” Mr Salam writes, “and indeed that conservatism itself is rooted in racist sentiments.” Does one even need to say that this is wrong—that conservatism is not, in fact, rooted in racist sentiment? That opposition to a Democratic president, even one who happens to be black, is not inherently racist?
There was a reason, even as a liberal 18 year-old, that I mocked CLA’ers. CLA is short hand slang for “College of Liberal Arts” at the University of Minnesota. We attended the Minnesota Institute for Technology. Rightly so, we reasoned that many of those gaining a degree at the “other school” were really gaining what some people called a degree.
But fun at the expense of silly degree programs aside, the idea that conservatives must be racist because we don’t agree with the prevailing thought mentality of the average Leftist is as silly as those degrees. The idea that I have to have my ideas and intentions vetted for validity by the likes of those who build programs that don’t help the people they’re meant to help is absurd.
Sadly, absurd sells.
I know many Republicans. None of them are racist. I would like to think equating Republicans with racism is long past. That said, I want to defend liberal arts education. Education is not just about increasing your earning power, or learning a vocation. It’s also about learning more about life — understanding the richness of the 2500 year tradition of western thought and culture, thinking about values, ethics, meaning, and understanding the nature of politics, economics, and social relations. I think a person with a strong liberal arts education ends up a better citizen, less likely to be hypnotized by advertisements and cultural trends, and has the skills to adapt to a variety of jobs. I also think that they are likely to be life long learners. Now, as your blog demonstrates, you don’t NEED a liberal arts education to achieve those goals — self-motivated people can read and learn even while never going to college. But I think there is real value to a liberal arts education.
All that said, I have run across really ideological and closed minded academics in many liberal arts disciplines. Many get so caught up in the theories that they lose sight of the practical — and can get caught up in seeing everything via race, gender, class, etc. Race, gender and class do play a role in every facet of life; but that is not due to racism, just the weight of history and how culture changes slowly. That’s good to understand, but it can become obsessive and when it does than academia moves from necessary and positive critical thinking and inquiry into ivory tower navel gazing. And as someone in academia, I do not like ivory tower navel gazing!
It’s also about learning more about life — understanding the richness of the 2500 year tradition of western thought and culture, thinking about values, ethics, meaning, and understanding the nature of politics, economics, and social relations. I think a person with a strong liberal arts education ends up a better citizen, less likely to be hypnotized by advertisements and cultural trends, and has the skills to adapt to a variety of jobs. I also think that they are likely to be life long learners.
I agree. However, I think it’s important to note that these things are important, but you still have to have a marketable skill to get a job. A friend of mine was a German Lit PhD student. However, he’s a gifted technologist. He loves the softer side of life, but makes his living in technology.
I want to avoid the nature of the softer-sciences, finding they can’t get a job, go back and get another degree instead.