WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 – Strange things are happening in the name of political correctness at colleges and universities across the country.
California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA) has debuted segregated housing available to students who “identify as Black/African-Americans.” The Halsi Scholars Black Living Learning Community has opened approximately nine months after the CSULA Black Student Union issued a list of demands including “Black Student Only” living space with a “full time Resident Director who can cater to the needs of Black students.”
Racially segregated housing can also be found at other universities, including University of California branches at Davis and Berkeley and the University of Connecticut.
A student at the University of Houston was punished for tweeting “All Lives Matter” after the shooting of five policemen in Dallas. The university’s student government sentenced the offending student to undergo mandatory diversity training.
At Princeton, the word “man” is considered sexist. Employees were told to use gender-neutral terms such as “human beings.”
At the University of Iowa, a clinical professor of pediatrics wrote to the athletic director expressing dismay over the ferocious facial expressions of Herky the Hawk. Herky is the mascot of the Hawkeyes, and was criticized for conveying an “invitation to act aggressively and even violence,” and lacking in “emotional diversity.”
Pages could be filled with similar examples.
Last year, University of California administrators released a document warning professors not to describe America as a “melting pot” because this unduly pressured minorities to “assimilate to the dominant culture.” This is an assault on the very important history of our country embracing men and women of every race, religion and ethnic background and making them into Americans.
When the melting pot philosophy was alive and well, our society succeeded dramatically. Immigrants from around the world entered an America that had self-confidence and believed in its own culture, history and values and was determined to transmit them to the newcomers. And the immigrants wanted to become Americans.
That, after all, is why they came.
Remembering the way American public schools served to bring children of immigrants into the mainstream, Fotine Z. Nicholas, who taught for 30 years in New York City Schools and wrote an education column for a Greek-American weekly, noted:
“I recall with nostalgia the way things used to be. At P.S. 82 in Manhattan, 90 per cent of the students had European-born parents. Our teachers were mostly of Irish origin, and they tried hard to homogenize us. We might refer to ourselves as Czech, or Hungarian, or Greek but we developed a sense of pride in being American…There were two unifying factors, the attitude of our teachers and the English language…After we started school, we spoke only English to our siblings, our classmates and our friends. We studied and wrote in English, we played in English, we thought in English.”
America is indeed a nation of immigrants. Speaking in Philadelphia in 1776, Samuel Adams declared:
“Driven from every other corner of the earth,freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course in this happy country as their last resort.”
Those who think that the idea of the “melting pot” is, somehow, demeaning to those who come to our country as immigrants fail to understand the reality of what has happened in America during the past centuries.
In his now famous letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island in 1790, George Washington wrote:
“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
The man who coined the term “melting pot” was the British author Israel Zangwill. In a now famous passage, written in 1904, he wrote:
“America is God’s Crucible, the Great Melting Pot, where all the races of Europe are reforming. Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your fifty groups and your fifty languages and histories and your fifty blood-hatreds and rivalries. But you won’t long be like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you’ve come to—these are the fires of God. A fig for your feuds and vendettas, Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and English, Jews and Russians, into the crucible with you all. God is making the American.”
America has been a nation much loved. Germans have loved Germany. Frenchmen have loved France. Swedes have loved Sweden. This, of course, is only natural. Yet, America is not simply another country. To think that it is to miss the point of our history.
America has been beloved not only by native Americans, but by men and women throughout the world who have yearned for freedom. By the millions they have come and found here the opportunities which existed in no other place.
America dreamed a bigger dream than any other nation in history. It was a dream of a free society in which a person’s race, religion or ethnic origin would be completely beside the point. it was a dream of a common nationality in which the only price to be paid was a commitment to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship. In the 1840s, Herman Melville wrote:
“We are the heirs of all time and with all nations we divide our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and peoples are forming into one federated whole and there is a future which shall see the estranged children of Adam restore as to the old hearthstone in Eden. The seed is sown and the harvest must come.”
America has been a new thing in the world, not without problems and challenges, which afflict any human enterprise, and which persist today. Yet, it remains a beacon for men and women in search of freedom in every corner of the world. When the enforcers of political correctness seek to proscribe the “melting pot” from our history, we can only lament that those in charge of some of our colleges and universities understand so little of the American story.
How will the new generation learn that story at universities like these? That should be a question that concerns us all.