In his Aug. 6 op-ed, Charles Krauthammer rightly warned us of "The Tribalization of America." However, his misunderstanding of American history took him off target. Affirmative-action programs and changes in school curricula designed to alter a "Eurocentric" bias attempt to redress unequal treatment long suffered by minorities and women precisely because of American tribalism.
Krauthammer admitted the denial of rights to black Americans, but he forgot the denial of rights to women, the near-genocide of the American Indian and the discrimination against Hispanic and Asian Americans. Only the morally blind would suggest that these problems were solved in the 1960s.
Like other conservatives, Krauthammer loves to quote the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. while obscuring his message. In "Why We Can't Wait," King wrote, "It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstream of American life if we do not do something special for him now?" King envisioned a federally funded economic program not unlike the much-maligned Great Society programs.
The problem facing educators was not captured in Krauthammer's silly remark about Socrates, Jesus and Jefferson. There is no intelligent disagreement about the instructive virtues of these men. The problem is the exclusion from our "history" of luminaries like Ghandi, Jane Addams and Frederick Douglass. The problem is the sort of tribalistic teaching that sees all that is "Western" as civilized and good (even if borrowed without acknowledgment or apology from Africa or China), and all that is not as primitive and bad.
How, in King's words, do we create a formula to achieve practical pluralism without dissolving into destructive divisiveness? How do we recognize and teach the true diversity of our great nation without resorting to tribalism? These are indeed important questions. Polemics like Krauthammer's, however, do not help us find answers. -- Mark Lloyd
Once again we learn that the sky is falling because those uppity women and minorities insist on being represented in educational curricula. Charles Krauthammer would have us believe that allowing Toni Morrison's books on the Stanford University campus is the first step toward the Beirutization of American society.
He ought to take a look at the background behind the violence in Northern Ireland, Liberia and the world's other ethnic hot spots. He'd see a history of repression of minority cultures by majorities that use force and intimidation to "transcend their tribal separateness."
When people's aspirations to self-expression are suppressed, the aspirations do not disappear but build up like steam in a pressure cooker. Thus when the lid starts to lift, no one should be surprised that an explosion is often the result. Despite Krauthammer's rosy picture of American history, our own country has experienced many such explosions.
Tribalism is an inherent part of human nature. That does not necessarily create problems, however. Rather the root of violence is the attempt to enforce as universal a value system that reflects only a single tribe's experience.
This is not to say that a nation cannot have a predominant value system. As Krauthammer pointed out, the United States has been relatively successful in creating a society out of a diverse population. What is not possible, and what is dangerous to assume possible, is the creation of social harmony by adopting a monochromatic education system in which dead white men have the only answers. -- Cathy Boggs
It must be nice to write platitudes about integration when you're looking from the inside out. Charles Krauthammer's vapid analysis of America's cultural state of affairs left much to be desired. More dangerous, though, was his attempt to smear the endeavors of people seeking to be meaningfully recognized by America.
How could Krauthammer define the use of black slave labor as simply "the denial of rights"? Even worse was his failure to mention the genocidal policy carried out against Native Americans. Is the squalor and social misery on many reservations and in our inner cities the result of America "embracing" its non-Anglo populations? Krauthammer then used his shallow analysis to attack programs meant to help the very people who have long been locked out.
Through affirmative action, opportunities are afforded to Americans who need them. Through expansion of our curricula and "canons," the history, people and literature of overlooked Americans can be included. Without such expansions, America will continue to be dominated by one "tribe."
Ensuring that the economically excluded and culturally neglected have the opportunity to make their contribution to the mosaic that is America is an obligation we all have. To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, opening the doors of opportunity is half the job. Making sure that people can walk through is the rest. -- Mark Anthony Sanchez