Rioters who hate America are not an accident; they are the fruition of decades of ideological indoctrination at our universities. While Marxism was increasingly repudiated around the world by countries that had suffered and failed under communist rule, professors in Western universities enthusiastically took up the destructive system, breathing life into its rotting corpse.
Many professors arriving in universities in the 1970s and 1980s grew up in or inherited the counterculture of the 1960s. Those who got high, dropped out, and then failed at subsistence farming dropped back into academia and decided never to leave. But their revolutionary fervor would not be lost; rather, it would reshape academia into its own image. Two of my colleagues—yes, I could name names—in the small anthropology department in which I taught for fifty years declared proudly that they were communists. Two others preferred to call themselves Marxists. One colleague in political science was a rabid enthusiast for communist Albania, until it fell, and then became the champion of communist North Korea. Later, most social scientists and humanities teachers adopted “postcolonial theory,” a Marxist-Leninist view that all of the evil in the world, from the days of Adam and Eve up to today, was entirely the result of Western colonialism.
Marxists, communists, and their fellow travelers never could sell the bourgeois vs. proletariat class conflict to Americans or Canadians, all of whom preferred to think of themselves as middle-class. But when the socialists added identity politics to class conflict, they hit pay-dirt, pure gold! The conflict was no longer between economic classes, but between gender classes, racial classes, and sexuality classes. The Marxist class conflict model proved perfect for feminists, racial activists, and sexuality activists to claim victimhood status and to denounce their alleged opponents as ruthless oppressors. And so was born the “patriarchy” crushing innocent females, “white supremacists” murdering harmless people of color, and “heteronormal” dictators forcing gays, lesbians, and transgenders into locked closets.
These new identity Marxists were quickly indulged within departments of women’s studies and feminist & gender studies; departments of black studies, Hispanic studies, and ethnic studies; and departments of queer studies and transgender studies. The mandate of these departments was propaganda and indoctrination on behalf of the favored sex, race, or sexuality. Aided by nihilistic, postmodern epistemology, the belief in truth and the academic search for truth were thrown out and replaced with identity-based “knowledge,” because “each person has her own truth.” Alleged experience and emotion now trump research, evidence, and logic.
A series of identity Marxist lies became the center of teaching and publication in the social sciences and humanities. Let us begin with the fourth-wave feminist lie that North Americans live in a “rape culture.” Feminists in anthropology and other fields taught their students that they live in a rape culture, and the students absorbed it as if it were mother’s milk. You might have thought that anthropologists have some idea what a culture is, but apparently feministanthropologists, which means just about all anthropologists, seem to have fallen into ideologically induced amnesia. Let us remind ourselves what culture is: culture is a set of conventional beliefs, values, and practices. To say that we have a “rape culture” would mean that we believe rape to be a good thing, that we teach our children to rape, and we reward rape, just as we regard reading as a good thing, teach our children to read, and reward success at reading (or at least used to). But we do not regard rape as a good thing, do not teach our children to rape, and do not reward rape, but rather punish it. So this feminist assertion is an outright lie. This is not rocket science, but feminist professors ignored our cultural reality in order to scare impressionable young women, who were becoming lax now that most feminist goals had been achieved, back into the security of the feminist camp.
The black studies lie, publicized with great effect by Black Lives Matter, is that black men are murdered every day by police, and that no black boy on the way to school or black man driving to work is safe from being murdered. If one is even slightly interested in facts and evidence, then it is clear that there is no empirical basis to this statement. There are around forty million African Americans, of which around twenty million are male. There are around fifty million contacts between police annually. In 2019, 1,004 individuals were killed by police using lethal force. Of those killed, 158 were black. Of those 158, all but ten were armed, but of those ten, six attacked the police. But even if we count the unarmed counterfactually as non-threatening, the percentage of unarmed male blacks killed is .00005% of all black males.
Sadly, many blacks were murdered, but not by police: in 2018, 2,925 African Americans were murdered; 2,600, or 89%, were murdered by other African Americans. By comparison to deaths in encounters with police, in 2006, 2,704 blacks were killed in auto accidents. In 2018, 6,088 African Americans died of opioid overdoses. The facts could not be clearer: the miniscule risk of death that African Americans face from police was far exceeded by the much greater dangers of being murdered by other African Americans, by being killed in a car accident, or by drug overdose. This does not excuse any unjust police killing, and citizens of any race must be treated fairly by police. Any policeman who unjustly kills a citizen must be held accountable. But the racist exaggeration of the threat to African Americans by police is dishonest and destructive. In the latest survey about public safety, 67% of African Americans said that they were afraid that the criticism of police would lead to a shortage of law enforcement and reduce public safety in their community.
Just as feminists have claimed that gender has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with socialization to societal norms, so too LGB, and especially T (transgenders), claim that they are victims of oppressive, “heterosexist” norms, that they have a right to be whatever they say they are, and that other people must obey instructions about their identity. These folks might not like it, but biology is inherent to their lives, and they cannot escape it. Across all cultures, women’s brains, skills, and preferences are different from men’s. Males have been built with XY genes, and females with XX. While men can take on whatever identity they desire, and may demand chemical and surgical adjustments, they will always be XY and can never be women; women can dress and act like men, but they will always be XX and can never be men. It is a lie to claim that identity can trump biological reality. Much pressure has been put on the public, often by governments and other organizations, to validate the fantasies of individual identity, a highly coercive and counter-rational demand.
The upshot of these Marxist identity-conflict campaigns is the cancelation of academic values in favor of “social justice,” which is operationally defined as special preferences and benefits to preferred categories of people. The rationale for “social justice” is also counterfactual: it claims that any difference in outcome of members of various census categories is the result of discrimination. For example, if females are “underrepresented” in the sciences, it is alleged that they are victims of discrimination; if African Americans have weak College Board scores, it is alleged that they’ve suffered the same. The possibilities are endless.
The supposed discrimination is taken as proven by unequal outcomes, when in fact most of the differences in outcome are explained by other factors, such as choice, given that females in droves avoid “hard” sciences in favor of social sciences and humanities, and that family structure and culture, for example, one parent families, differs from group to group. So too with the alleged “income gap” between males and females, which is mostly explained by the fact that men work more hours, days, and years than women. A particularly ugly consequence of the discrimination assumption is that the prominence of East Asian Americans in medical professions and fields can then be attributed to (imaginary) discrimination in their favor, just as the Nobel Prizes for Jews can be discounted as (imaginary) discrimination on their behalf. The reality is that for decades there has been official systemic discrimination, called “affirmative action,” in favor of females, African Americans, Hispanics, and LGBTs, with alleged oppressors sidelined for belonging to the wrong categories.
But it goes far beyond this. America and the West generally are identified as collective oppressors of these gender, racial, and sexuality “victims,” and are thus vilified as evil and requiring complete destruction, to be replaced by LGBT, feminist, indigenous, Muslim governance, priorities, and rules, including literature, art, and science by members of victim categories. Our university professors teach, and our students learn, that America, Canada, and the West are hateful, with a hateful oppressive history, and only oppression as their legacy. What they teach and learn is that only a revolution that totally transforms America and the West can redeem them. And our university graduates have taken to the streets to riot in favor of this “social justice” revolution.
No one has done a survey yet of the educational attainment of street rioters during this spring of discontent. Perhaps the looters and burners were less ideological than college graduates, although the two who threw Molotov cocktails at police were law school graduates. But of those attacking police and pulling down every historical statue in America—the Confederates and the abolitionists, the generals and the presidents, the explorers, the feminists, and the soldiers—I would wager that a large majority are university graduates, doing what they have been taught to do. We can thank our universities for that.
Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University.
Image: Public Domain