Printed in Cortland Standard in July 1992
To the Editor:
I normally skip reading Jeffrey Hart's column because I anticipate that reading his pieces will only upset my stomach. However, the July 6 headline "The War Against Western Culture" caught my eye, and as I read it my stomach reacted in the expected manner.
If one strips the intellectual pretention from Mr. Hart's argument, his basic message is "white people are superior to people of color." It is a simple argument, a racist argument, and one which I thought was discredited long ago. As a white man (wealthy?) in US society, Mr. Hart seems completely incapable of "putting himself in the shoes" of people who haven't had such privileges (ie. Blacks, Latinos, Women, Gay Men and Lesbians, Disabled People, Native Americans, Poor People, etc.).
The attempts by many caring people around the country to create "multicultural" education should be applauded. We are a nation of great diversity (perhaps to Mr. Hart's chagrin). It is vital that our schools, media, museums and other institutions reflect that diversity and show the varied contributions of different peoples. Mr. Hart wants to remember only the Greek contribution to the evolution of democracy. He refuses to acknowledge the fact that the origins of our Constitution can be traced to the Iroquois Confederacy. Instead he writes off Native Americans as "Stone Age people."
Equally important is an understanding of the social dynamics of oppression. Pretending that the US is a classless society is sheer nonsense. Statistics show that the most important factor in a person's economic status is the economic status of their parents. Of course, there are exceptions, people, like my father, who grew up poor and "made it" in America. (My father will never forget that his father was also intelligent and hardworking, but was never able to make it into the middle class.) As the rioting in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict demonstrated, there is a simmering rage in this country. The efforts by people like Mr. Hart to meet this with more police and prisons will never succeed. Social changes directed toward creating a society with justice and equal opportunity for all people is the only solution.
Perhaps the most striking irony of Mr. Hart's position is that his "Western Civilization" is the very force which threatens to destroy our Earth. We are at a crossroads. His path is one which ignores our ecological and social crises. We can join him in putting our heads in the sand, or we can open our eyes, name the problems we face and get to work building a world which all of our children can be proud to inherit.