Joining the Multi-Cult
The identity politics which infest UCLA today are both a product, and a cause, of radical undergraduate academics. The politically-correct focus on women, minorities and gays serves as a lens through which all topics, from Shakespeare to the Civil War, the 1760’s to the 1960’s, are viewed.
By contrast with the ongoing radicalization of departments like English or Political Science, UCLA’s recently created multi-cultural departments were never subsumed by the Left. They couldn’t have been, because they were created by the left, to serve the goals of the left.
We’re in a brave new (UCLA) world now. For the student who wants to avoid the relative intellectual rigor of the other humanities and social-science disciplines, UCLA now boasts a long-list of victimoligist specialties. African-American Studies? Check. American Indian Studies? Check. Asian-American Studies, Chicano Studies, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Studies, and Women’s Studies? Check, check, check, and…check.
Getting a sense of the multi-cultis’ pseudo-scholarship requires a close look at the class topics and assigned readings. This case study examines one typical department, African-American Studies, for one academic year, 2004-2005. Understanding that each department has its quirks, the troubling situation we find in African-American Studies offers strong backing to the anecdotal evidence available about the other five disciplines not examined here.
The following are brief profiles of problem classes characterizing the professionalized radicalism of the department. Despite confining the investigative focus to radical topics and readings, the study still endless problematic content in the department's offerings.
African-American Studies M107, titled “Cultural History of Rap,” uses Professor Cheryl Keyes’ own book Rap Music and Street Consciousness along with That’s the Joint! The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Part of the rigorous intellectual demands of the course include couch time with BET and MTV. The syllabus states, “Students are strongly encouraged to view hip-hop related television programs, if possible, on a weekly basis.”
In that same vein, the department also offers Professor Scot Brown’s “Recent African American Urban History: Funk Music and Black Popular Culture,” which is cross-listed with the History department. This class, like 56% of the year’s African-American Studies courses, is co-offered by one or more other departments.
It is this cross-listing that is perhaps the biggest problem with identity politics studies. Through this interdisciplinary charade, the multi-culti infection of identity group compartmentalization spreads to mainstream majors like English, History and Political Science. Such cross-listing results in a History major learning about the Civil War from the perspective of an African American, an Asian-American, a Chicano, and a lesbian, for good measure. But with their eyes focused firmly on the politically correct microscope, students miss the broader picture of our common American experience.
Meanwhile, courses which do not examine their subject through a racial lens are “re-educated,” and otherwise made to conform. Non-compliant courses, and any professors who will not bow to the system, simply disappear.
In Scot Brown’s “Recent African American Urban History: Funk Music and Black Popular Culture” course, the professor argues that “James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic, Betty Davis, [and] Earth, Wind and Fire,” compose “multiple voices of anguish, protest and vision.” The final exam assigns a 3-5 page paper analyzing one of a limited choice of “songs as they relate to the course themes of realism and surrealism in funk music.” These choices include the deep thoughts of Chic’s “Everybody Dance,” which declares in part:
Everybody dance, do-do-do
Clap your hands, clap your hands
Everybody dance, do-do-do
Clap your hands, clap you hands
Everybody dance, do-do-do
Clap your hands, clap your hands
Everybody dance, do-do-do
Clap your hands, clap your hands 
Lots of people feel that funk is great music. Many people feel the same about polka. But neither deserves to the subject of academic study, much less a university’s final exam.
“Interracial Dynamics in American Society & Culture” is listed both as General Education Cluster 20, and African-American Studies M167. While deeper than classes that give credit for a straight-faced examination of Black Entertainment Television rump-shaking or ‘70s slap-bass virtuosity, “Interracial Dynamics” only digs a deeper grave of academic fraud. The course presents the usual theories and the usual suspects of the academic left. “White privilege,” “institutional racism,” and racial deconstruction – but only against whites – are par for the course here.
Familiar from my own experience with a similar class, Chicano Studies 182, “Whiteness Studies,” is one assigned reading, George Lipsitz’s “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness.” Given the book’s subtitle, “How White People Profit from Identity Politics,” it’s clear that Lipsitz wasn’t writing about UCLA, where white people are in fact the only group not benefiting from identity politics.
As the final class activity of the “Interracial Dynamics” class, those students enrolled in the class through the African-American Studies department hold a debate on California’s Proposition 187 – but only after being properly “educated” by two articles: Rene Sanchez’s “Divisive Prop. 187 Is Voided,” and Tamar Jacoby’s “Anti-Immigration Fever In Arizona.” As with most academics at UCLA, students aren’t expected to reach their own conclusions on controversial topics. Professors prefer to do it for them – and then confirm their indoctrination as creatively as possible. [Say, this sounds suspiciously like the behavior of that 'unnameable' ethnic group that controls the media. --L.D.] For “Interracial Dynamics,” that method is a sham debate that the pro-187 side could not possibly win without independent study above and beyond the course readings.
In the next quarter of the “Interracial Dynamics” General Cluster class, the “Civil Rights and Black Power Movements” module consists of selections from Stokely Carmichael, Charles V. Hamilton, Huey P. Newton, and Bobby Seale. The views of independent historians, for or against that ugly period of America history, are noticeably absent.
Writers contrarian to the hagiography of what was in reality a Marxist street gang, like David Horowitz, Peter Collier, or Kate Coleman, are not presented for the students’ benefit. Contrarian voices, as a close reading of the class syallabi make clear, are only welcome coming from the left. Thus are students assigned to read Edward Said’s “Islam As News,” and in further reading on immigration issues, are favored with Augusta Dwyer’s “Let’s Shoot Some Aliens: The US Border Patrol.” :cheers: 
Wrapping up the winter quarter for GE Cluster students is a debate on “Income-based vs. Race-based Affirmative Action in Higher Education Admissions.” There’s no mention of the possibility of no affirmative action at all; and, given the assigned readings of “Regents of the University of California v. Allan Bakke (Justice Marshall’s Dissent)” and Nell Irvin Painter’s “Whites Say I Must Be on Easy Street,” the reason is clear: you can’t debate an idea you haven’t learned.
Making the outrageous content of the “Interracial Dynamics” class detailed here is that it is derived only from a brief review of the two course syllabi. Were there enough time and resources for a close review of every single author, work, and film in this class (or others), the result would be the enumeration of far more examples of radical works disguised by bland titles.
A prime example illustrating this problem is the course screening of “I’m the One That I Want.” The title itself is rather innocuous, not wearing its politics on its sleeve. However, the film is noted anti-war leftist Margaret Cho’s foul-mouthed exposition on her life as a self-proclaimed Korean “fag hag.” In the recording, which is simply a tape of her stand-up performance at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater, Cho notes that “straight men are scary,” and discusses, among other scholastically relevant topics, vagina-washing and oral sex. This one example is bad enough, but it represents only the tip of the radical iceberg.
More of the Same (Radicalism)
Professor Cheryl Harris teaches African-American Studies C191, titled “Race, Equal Protection and the Law.” Harris assigns her own Harvard Law Review article, “Whiteness as Property” which expands on her suspect racial theories. Also assigned is Omi and Winant’s “Racial Formation in the United States,” another pair of the usual suspects from the “Whiteness Studies” field of academics. The two contend that “racial meanings pervade U.S. society,” and argue that “race in the United States [must be treated] as a fundamental organizing principle of social relationships.”
In that same vein is Harvard Professor Noel Ignatiev’s article “Immigrants and Whites,” from his celebrated – and intellectually lightweight – publication Race Traitor. Ignatiev’s magazine, which caught the fancy of academic radicals when it debuted in 1992, trumpets the confused slogan “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Ignatiev himself states on the Race Traitor website, “It is not fair skin that makes people white; it is fair skin in a certain kind of society, one that attaches social importance to skin color.” Fair enough. Since Ignatiev wants to “abolish the white race,” we eagerly await, albeit without holding our breath, the announcement of his desire to abolish the black race as well. But don’t count on it.
Professor Harris thinks highly enough of academic hacks like Omi, Winant and Ignatiev to assign their works in the limited ten-week duration of the class. And while it’s bad enough that undergraduates are being force-fed such rubbish, it’s far worse that Professor Harris, with her belief that race underlies everything in our nation, also holds the privilege of educating this nation’s future lawyers.
For an academic field seemingly uninterested with classic areas of inquiry, another pop culture class in African-American Studies is hardly surprising. Professor Paul Von Blum’s “African-American Film” “serves as an alternative vision” to the “dramatic disrespect,” and “racial distortions, caricatures, and stereotypes” of the white film establishment. Films screened include blaxploitation classics “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song,” “Shaft,” and “Cotton Comes to Harlem.” Von Blum also samples more recent, violent fare like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and John Singleton’s “Boyz in the Hood.” As with 1970’s funk, pop culture is fun, but hardly academic fodder.
For a developing discipline, African-American Studies’ amateurish focus on music and movies does itself no favors. This shortcoming, however, is inevitable. African-American Studies, like all multi-cultural studies, is simply too narrow a pedestal on which to mount an entire academic field. In slicing and dicing the common American experience into color-coded segments, multi-cultural academics miss the forest for the trees, because the story of African-Americans is the story of America – and the story of America is history.
UCLA’s multi-cultural studies departments make a brave attempt to weave their separate, narrow threads into a common tapestry. But the attempt backfires. When multi-cultural studies intersect, the story is no longer even about the particular minority group as a whole – itself already too narrow by comparison to broad narrative of American history. The intersections instead create, for example, tiny subfields like African-American women, African-American lesbians, transgendered African-Americans, and so on. Does the transgendered Chicano have a different cultural experience from the transgendered African-American? Possibly. But what of it?
Von Blum’s “African American Films” ignoring the obvious inanity, indulges this minority-of-a-minority obsession by spending class time on gay black filmmaker Marlon Riggs’ execrable PBS documentary “Tongues Untied.” An almost indescribable pastiche of spoken-word drum-circle nattering and soft-core gay pornography, it served in 1989 as the catalyst for Senator Jesse Helms’ condemnation of National Endowment for the Arts funding practices. Riggs bitterly dismissed the criticism as the work of “white arch-conservatives and religious fundamentalists,” but readily admitted the inclusion of “words like ‘fuck’…images of two black men tenderly embracing…[and] highly diffused, silhouetted nudity.” The film’s NEA funding and PBS distribution are clear evidence of these institutions’ cooptation by political radicals. That a UCLA class would examine Riggs’ work with a straight face is abundant evidence that the same has happened to the African-American Studies department.
“The Psychology of Race and Gender Among African-Americans,” cross-listed in African-American and Women’s Studies, has a promising title, one which might even indicate the possibility of an actual intellectual discussion on race issues. But Professor James Cones’ inclusion of the radical author bell hooks [sic] tempers even this possibility. hooks is famous for her lesbian radicalism, manifested in an infamous essay in which she confessed to feeling a “homicidal malice” toward an anonymous white man on an airplane. Defending her fury, hooks noted, “Blacks who lack a proper killing rage are merely victims.” Nihilism also characterized hooks’ remarks in her 2002 commencement speech at Southwestern University: “Every imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal nation on the planet teaches its citizens to care more for tomorrow than today.”
Professor Cones, no doubt cognizant of hooks’ well-known radicalism, nonetheless assigned the radical’s book, “Where We Stand: Class Matters.” The Library Journal notes that the work “illustrates how everyday interactions reproduce class hierarchy while simultaneously denying its existence.” Marxoid theorems aside, the Journal also praises the book’s “valuable framework for discussing such difficult and unexplored areas as…the ruling-class co-optation of youth through popular culture, and real estate speculation as an instrument of racism.” Knowing the specifics of the book, Cones could only properly have assigned it as an example of abnormal “Pyschology of Race and Gender.” But if the syllabus is any indication, hooks’ work and its ideas are taught with the greatest respect, alongside other marginal works like J.L. King’s “On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep With Men.”
Professor Cheryl Keyes returns in a Winter 2005 class, cross-listed with Ethnomusicology, titled, appropriately enough, “African American Musical Heritage.” This predominance of music and film classes within the African-American Studies department serves to outline its narrow academic boundaries – race, music, film, and political radicalism. Other notable – but distastefully conservative – aspects of the African-American experience, like evangelical religion, are denied a place at the table.
Keyes’ survey of African-American music returns to her unfortunate fixation on rap with the caustically titled Ebony article “Why Whites Are Ripping Off Rap and R&B.” Never mind that music is constantly evolving and is owned by no race, ethnicity, or individual. Keyes’ readings teach her students otherwise. Unfortunately, the endorsement of childish possessiveness of a universality like music is characteristic of the political radicalism and racial rage which permeates the department and its faculty.
This Is Academics?
African American Studies 118, which is cross-listed with American Indian, Asian American, and Chicano Studies, is the penultimate example of the peculiarly UCLA propensity toward navel-gazing. The class, “Issues in Student-Initiated Retention and Outreach: Student-Initiated Retention and Social Change in Los Angeles,” runs in the same vein as Asian-American or Chicano Studies classes that chart the history of their race’s militant ethnic organizations from the 1960s to present. But the “Issues” class is even worse, because there’s not even a separation of 30 years to provide perspective. The class description admits that the “focus [is] on UCLA as a case.” What it doesn’t admit is that like many other multi-cultural classes, the philosophy, learning, and outcome is centered on conducting radical activism for credit.
As the website explains, “For the past fifteen years, the Campus Retention Committee (CRC) has provided a vehicle for the organized participation of students in their own retention and successful matriculation. The Student-Initiated Outreach Committee (SIOC) has similarly focused student efforts on the development of student-run outreach programs for K-12 students, particularly those from underrepresented, disadvantaged communities. The CRC and SIOC represent the most elaborate expressions of student-initiated retention and outreach activity in the country. Collectively, they support, fund, and evaluate 12 student-initiated retention and outreach projects employing more than 60 student staff and over 100 student volunteers in service of nearly 2000 of their fellow undergraduates and 1500 K-12 students annually. The CRC and SIOC provide a broad, creative range of services, uniquely harnessing the collective experiences, energies, and aspirations of students to improve the quality of life and education at UCLA and in the community.” The website further notes that “The CRC has acknowledged the impact of social change theory and practice on its own retention methodology. Students will have the opportunity to consider whether the CRC has made a reciprocal contribution through its alumni and former students.”
Translation: through the use of all students’ mandatory undergraduate student government fees, minority students on campus have built a recruitment and retention machine on campus that offers special outreach to prospective students, and members-only tutoring and other support services to current students. Well, that is, if you’re a minority student. If you’re a middle-class black student, even upper-class, the CRC and SIOC machines will seek you out, offer you priority enrollment, proprietary tutoring, and full-time employees whose only task is aiding your academic efforts at UCLA. But if you’re an Iranian émigré, or the poorest of white trailer-park trash, the CRC and SIOC’s doors, and their noble goals of “social change,” are closed to you. As with the issue of diversity, minorities are UCLA’s Chosen People. If you’re not one, you are a nobody, an un-person.
This entire UCLA class revolves around the idea that such a deeply corrupt system of preferential treatment is in fact deeply right, and deeply just. Rather unnecessarily – given the almost exclusive enrollment of committed student radicals – the syllabus warns that the class will not “tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic or other discriminatory, rude, insensitive or personal remarks.” That is, of course, unless the rude remarks come from class readings like bell hooks’ “Let Freedom Ring,” from “Why LA Happened: Implications of the ’92 Los Angeles Rebellion.” This is one of two class readings which refer coyly to the 1992 Los Angeles riots as a “rebellion.” A third selection, from UCLA Professor Paul Von Blum, lauds “Resistance Art in Los Angeles.”
The syllabus also assigns “Economic Justice in the Los Angeles Figueroa Corridor,” and “Fighting for a Living Wage in Santa Monica,” both from the radical UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education title, “Teaching for Change.” It is made clear through the syllabus’ reading assignments and general outline of topics that, for this class and its leaders, teaching is not a dispassionate calling. Instead, “Education is Change” (bell hooks), “Education is Politics,” and teachers are to pursue “social change,” “equality, self-determination, [and] community empowerment.”
In this spirit of teaching change, students are assigned to complete ten hours of fieldwork “with a local community-based organization that includes 1) volunteering/site visits/workshops and 2) informational interviews with key staff members.” Based on the backgrounds of class participants, and on the radical political philosophy underlying the very premise of the class, it’s safe to assume that the fieldwork isn’t with the Westwood Rotary Club, or the Los Angeles-based libertarian Reason Magazine.
Rather, count on it being with the type of community organizations known as labor unions. To make this preference crystal-clear, the course website features an informational link about “Organize to Improve,” a February 24, 2005 gathering held by the UCLA Labor Center in downtown Los Angeles. The event featured UC Berkeley professor Steven Pitts discussing the “security officers campaign, the electrical workers’ push to bring African Americans into the trade, and homecare workers’ struggle to maintain dignity for workers.” Macias’ deception in mandating work with “community organizations” when that category is essentially confined to labor unions and radical organizations, is characteristic of the deception behind the class itself: turning legitimate academics into liberal activism....