Kabul’s rapid collapse upon the withdrawal of U.S. troops teaches us at least two things about culture. Firstly, different cultures undergird vastly different forms of government. After 20 years of direct U.S. influence in regime-building, Afghanistan has failed to establish its own democratic government, largely due to illiberal political and civic cultural norms. The 20-year period also evidences the monumental difficulties associated with “democratizing” a culture with external forces. As someone who grew up and came of age in China, I share such realism that Chinese culture, grounded in three millennia of monarchic history, hierarchical social structures, Confucianism, and a homogeneous national identity, is not conducive to host a traditional, Western liberal democracy.
Many political scientists trace the likelihood of establishing a democracy to a country’s level of economic development. The modernization theory predicts a linear, gradual path of political development into democracy through industrialization, urbanization, education, and other progressive socioeconomic changes. But such reasoning fatally ignores the enduring and consequential role of culture in making democracy work.
In this sense, Americans are blessed for a stable civic culture that fosters a democratic social capital underwriting trust, associationism, rule by consent, cooperation, and reasonable redistribution.
Sadly, our long-standing democratic traditions are under attack by a cultural shift brought on by critical race theory (CRT) and other related ideologies. CRT examines our society through the lens of race and seeks to replace our cultural emphasis on critical thinking and enlightenment values with emotional appeals of political correctness. In the names of equity and anti-racism, our long-held virtues of equality before the law, individual merit, diversity of opinions, rationalism, and legal reasoning are now chastised as “racist” ideas and marginalized.
Our higher education system, once entrusted to champion true liberal and democratic ideals, is now an echo chamber for radical proposals based on feel-good yet unworkable racial Marxism. Far-left, activist university administrators outnumber and outmaneuver faculty members. For example, UC Berkeley employs 400 staff on a $25 million dollar annual budget to run the school’s “equity and inclusion” programs. San Jose State University has tailored its honors program for students of color in the name of equity, while Temple University is expected to begin construction for its Center for Anti-Racism in fall 2021.
The illiberal cultural shift is also infecting K-12 education. Over 160 school principals in Minnesota have pledged to “decenter whiteness.” The Coronado Unified School District in San Diego accused the Coronado High School basketball team of harboring “racism, colorism and classism,” shortly after the Tortilla gate incident. Without due diligence or a thorough investigation, the board canceled its own sports team to placate race-based moral righteousness. In Chula Vista, a local public museum denied a parent group admission simply because the parents were planning an educational event to expose CRT’s harms. One of the museum board members even threatened to report the event to a county supervisor as a disinformation campaign. This authoritarian mindset is rooted in the idea of the Department of Anti-racism (DOA), to monitor all levels of public policies. Young, impressionable minds are often too afraid to publicly oppose CRT and its policy conclusion of anti-racism because “anyone who is not anti-racist is racist.”
CRT-based ethnic studies is sweeping the state of California in virtually all school districts with the blessings of the State Legislature and the State Department of Education. The long march has also reached the collegiate level, with the California Community Colleges system being the latest institution to mandate “liberated” ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Instead of teaching students our multifaceted history and diverse cultures, CRT-rooted ethnic studies emphasizes “political contributions to anti-imperial and anti-colonial movements… in forms of power and oppression.”
These ideological deviations from our traditional values are progressively eroding our culture.
This is a culture war started by CRT proponents and race-obsessed ideologues decades ago, which has now trickled down from higher education to K-12 classrooms. In an eerie parallel to the predictions of Marxist communism, CRT claims that anti-racism leads to anti-capitalism, and then to a racial utopia commune. The goal of CRT is to achieve “equity,” a fuzzy word that has come to mean “equal outcomes” by any means necessary. When one examines historical lessons from all modern repressive regimes, including the former Soviet Union and China, it is not hard to deduce that the elites incite and then use social violence to accomplish these utopian ideals.
If we Americans continue to acquiesce to the un-American and undemocratic demands of CRT, our society will ultimately reach an irreversible turning point where differences of opinions are silenced, demonized, and penalized. Our democracy is under siege.
The only way we can fight back is through reviving our culture of self-governance and civic engagement. Parents and community members need to wake up and lead the public discourse on the purpose and mission of a healthy education. Concerned citizens must organize to take back control of local school boards, which have been seized by powerful interest groups such as the infamous teachers’ unions. Paso Robles School District passed a board policy to ban the teaching of CRT-based, divisive concepts. A Coronado parent group fought successfully to make the school district board rescind its false statement of “racism, colorism and classism.” San Francisco parents collected over 81,000 signatures to recall three woke board members.
When more community members stand up and get organized, we will have our best chance at revitalizing America’s cultural norms of individual liberty, local control, and democratic governance. CRT smears our culture as one of “whiteness.” But if we surrender our capability of self-government, we will lose America as a country. All races will suffer indiscriminately.