By Editorial Staff
Published April 3, 2008
By Linda Chavez
A Letter from Linda Chavez, former director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Reagan and later joined the senior staff of the White House, to the editor of “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” 7/18/90.
“Cultural Diversity” has become the shibboleth of the 90’s on college campuses. Few critics are willing to challenge the values of diversity and pluralism lest they be branded reactionary, or worse, racist. The promoters of cultural diversity tell us that theirs is an ideology of inclusion. But the policies of cultural diversity as they are practiced on campus today have very little to do with inclusion or diversity.
My own experience with the promoters of this new ideology suggests that their real aim is to keep out certain ideas and certain people, to foreclose debate, to substitute their own catechism for the free inquiry usually associated with a university.
In May of this year, I was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at the University of Northern Colorado. The topic of my address to graduating seniors was to have been the movement toward democracy occurring in Eastern Europe and elsewhere and what special challenges this posed to those of us living in the United States, the world’s oldest Democracy. However, when word spread of my invitation to speak, a group of Hispanic students and community activists launched a protest.
They objected to my views on affirmative action and bilingual education – I am critical of both. They also objected to my past association with the Reagan Administration (I was director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Reagan and later joined the senior staff of the White House). And they objected to my past affiliation with U.S. English, a public policy group that promotes laws to make English the official language of the United States.
At first, the university president, Robert Dickeson, held firm, stating the university’s commitment to honor its invitation. I offered to come to campus a day early and meet with the protesters – under any conditions they might choose – to discuss my views on affirmative action, bilingual education, or any other topic, even though these subjects had nothing to do with the speech I intended to give. Mr. Dickeson declined my offer but reiterated his commitment to have me speak.
Less than 10 days later, Mr. Dickeson rescinded the university’s invitation. He apparently changed his mind after a marathon listening session in the student lounge, where he heard from 95 of the university’s 9500 students. In revoking the invitation, he issued an extraordinary statement, which said in part:
“The intent of the university in inviting Linda Chavez to be the commencement speaker was to be sensitive to cultural diversity, and the committee making the decision intended to communicate the importance of cultural pluralism. It is clear that the decision was both uniformed and gave the appearance of being grossly insensitive.”
In trying to explain how my selection as a commencement speaker was inconsistent with the university’s commitment to cultural diversity and pluralism, Mr. Dickeson later wrote in an opinion piece for The Rocky Mountain News: “[T]he people who had selected Chavez honestly thought they were picking a positive role model for Hispanic women leaders, and that she would be received as such. They were obviously wrong.”
Cultural pluralists claim to want diversity, but the diversity they seek is certainly not in opinions different from their own. In the ideology of cultural pluralism, one’s world view is determined by race, ethnicity, gender, and class. To be black or Hispanic or female or working class is to think a certain way. In the cultural pluralists’ model, no one is really capable of escaping his or her cultural determinants.
In this view, getting beyond one’s own cultural reference point requires exposure to people who exemplify the thinking of other groups. Since blacks, Hispanics, and women differ so profoundly from white men, the ideology assumes, the products of black, Hispanic, and female thought must be added to the curriculum; universities must comprise sufficient numbers of such persons as students and faculty members; and such people must be presented as “role models” on ceremonial occasions.
The problem with the cultural pluralists’ model, or course, is that not all blacks, Hispanics, or women think alike. Neither do white males, for that matter. How could they? None of these groups is homogeneous. Among Hispanics, for example, are people who were born in the United States and speak barely a word of Spanish, as well as others born thousands of miles away who speak not a world of English. What does a Peruvian immigrant from Cusco have in common with a third-generation Mexican-American born in Chicago? Do we really expect these two to share a common world view because we define both as Hispanic?
Much as the cultural pluralists might regret it, right-mindedness is not passed along in the DNA. Not every black person embraces affirmative action, nor every Hispanic bilingual education. So the cultural pluralists think they must define which blacks, Hispanics, and women are acceptable role models – who among them may be heard, and under what circumstances. Thus the decision to bar me as a commencement speaker.
The trend is not only to limit which outsiders such as myself may speak in the university but, more important, to limit what those within academy may say and do. Several universities recently have adopted policies restricting what they see as racially or sexually offensive speech – Emory University, the University or Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, and Stanford University, to name a few.
At Stanford, a student apologist for the new “anti-harassment” restrictions on that campus said: “What we are proposing is not completely in line with the First Amendment. But I’m not sure it should be. We at Stanford are trying to set a different standard from what society at large is trying to accomplish.” Roger Kimball, in describing such restriction in his book Tenured Radicals (Harper and Row, 1990), asks: “But what does it mean that the university, traditionally a bastion of free speech and a place where controversial ideas may freely circulate, has begun to encroach even on these ideas in the name of a certain vision of political rectitude?”
Cultural pluralists may favor an environment where professors feel constrained from introducing “any sort of thing that might hurt a group,” as one of them admonished his colleagues at a Harvard seminar on racial insensitivity last year. But what kind of teaching can take place in such an environment? At a speech I gave recently at Grinnell College, a young black woman informed me that she was tired of reading about slavery in American history courses because it gave her white classmates the “wrong impression” about blacks and their contribution to this nation.
In the name of cultural diversity, should we revise our history books to remove painful lessons? And how will these new culturally sensitive institutions deal wit the growing numbers of blacks, Hispanics, and women who break ranks with the orthodoxies of their groups? Recently, Shelby Steele, associate professor of English at San Jose State University, wrote in the New York Times Magazine of his disillusionment with preferential employment and admission policies, which he feels stigmatize blacks.
Other black intellectuals have criticized at least some forms of racial preference; among them are Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, Walter Williams, Julius Lester, Randall Kennedy, and Stephen Carter. Will these men be driven from the academy for their heretical views? Or ostracized within it? The cultural pluralists have embarked on a dangerous course. Inevitably, however, the tide will begin to turn as more and more people resist their bullying tactics. In the meantime, those claiming to want diversity and pluralism will have done great damage to the liberal traditions of the university. Let’s hope that academic freedom can survive the assault.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » On Campus
Your comments are welcome!
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)