Mythologies of Cultural Politics and the Discrete Charm of the Black Petite Bourgeoisie
Adolph Reed Jr.
The meaning and status of cultural diversity -- multiculturalism -- in American academic life has become an issue of major concern. The debate has spilled over the university's boundaries as institutions of broader public opinion have judged it newsworthy. Since the Stanford curriculum controversy entered the national spotlight, the diversity issue has provoked passionate exchanges in Op-Ed pages and a stream of representations and commentaries throughout print and broadcast media. Heightened public attention has prompted scholars to take to the ramparts and fire off sound bites. For example, in his fall 1990 welcoming address to the new first-year class, the Dean of Yale College, a classicist known for pugnacious defense of timeless verities, seemed to draw a line in the dirt by bluntly and gratuitously proclaiming the superiority of Western civilization. Discussion of curricular multiculturalism naturally shades into the related issues of diversification of faculties and student bodies and, to that extent, acquires the rhetorical and programmatic urgency associated with affirmative action. That sense of urgency is fueled by the resurgence of racist incidents on predominantly white campuses. For proponents of regimes of diversification those incidents point up the need for general education, or re-education,