ACADEMICALLY SPEAKING: Cultural diversity is too important to be co-opted by unhinged activists

Independent of race, people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds experience histories of oppression, marginalization, and colonialization differently, and therefore cannot be lumped into one monolithic group based on appearance.

”Academically Speaking” is a series by Campus Reform Managing Editor Zachary Marschall that, drawing on his firsthand experience working with other scholars across the globe, reveals how radical ideas originating in academia impact Americans’ daily lives. Marschall holds a PhD in Cultural Studies and is an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky. His research investigates the intersections of democratic political systems, free market economies, and technological innovation in the production of national and cultural identities, as well as the exchange of cultural goods, services, and practices.


“Unhinged” would be an apt Halloween costume tonight for anyone creative enough to pull off the outfit.

From vandalizing pro-life posters to creating a petition to kick a conservative student off campus, Campus Reform’s daily coverage is rife with examples of unhinged behavior on campus.

A previous article in this series explained how the hiring cycle in the academy produces academic mentors that condition students to expect real life to operate “in the image of their senior-year seminar.”

Such on-campus conduct, then, offers examples of what makes younger leftist activists feel entitled to the change that they demand through erratic actions and illiberal tactics.

A metaphorical Halloween costume that captures the activist mood may be difficult to execute. In that case, Campus Reform readers may want to consult California Polytechnic State University’s Halloween Costume flow chart, which this outlet reported on in 2019.

The chart may help un-woke Americans evade activists’ unhinged outrage, which has been on full display this autumn.

Just this month, climate protesters attempted to enter the Department of the Interior building forcefully.

A week after that Oct. 14 incident, transgender activist employees at Netflix walked out of their jobs, demanding their employer “remove” Dave Chapelle’s purportedly transphobic new comedy special and “commit to releasing more ‘intersectional’ content,” according to CBS News.

Netflix did take action against one employee who shared classified information in retaliation against the company for not removing the special from its streaming service.  

Though such instances, both on and off campus, run the gamut of political issues, there is one variety of entitled activist ultimatums that particularly fuels leftists’ inability to live alongside those from which they disagree on other issues.

That behavior and mindset – that disposition – is cultivated in universities’ “multicultural” spaces.

Colleges and universities designate these spaces specifically for students’ multicultural programming and events.

In September, two females at Arizona State University Tempe videotaped themselves forcing two White male peers out of the school’s multicultural center because the males’ clothing and laptop decal identified the pair as conservative.     

That incident was not an outlier.

In February 2020, Campus Reform reported on a Black woman telling a group of University of Virginia students that there were “too many white people” in the school’s new Multicultural Student Center.

The fact that “White” is a race and not a culture – for all everyone knows, those White students could have been Ukrainian and Russian sitting together – exemplifies the intellectual un-seriousness of leftist outrage.

Independent of race, people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds experience histories of oppression, marginalization, and colonialization differently, and therefore cannot be lumped into one monolithic group based on appearance.

Treating diverse individuals as the same is reductionist and simplistic, but also opportunistic when a White and non-White binary serves an ulterior political goal.

Texas Representative Chip Roy tweeted at the time of the altercation, “Hey, @UVa, this is what a ‘multicultural center’ causes. More race-based thinking and segregating.”

Roy hit the nerve of the issue with the term “segregating.”

Campus Reform reports regularly on how the practical application of anti-racist and diversity, equity, inclusion campus initiatives create segregated spaces. But the ASU and UVA videos reveal something deeper.

These examples of unhinged students demanding certain groups be excluded from public universities’ “inclusive” spaces are the result of the students’ sense of entitlement to be separate from people unlike them.

That conception of diversity, which calls for lines of separation between groups, has a name—and it is rooted in decades-old scholarly debate.

That vision for diversity is multiculturalism, which gained traction in academia, and then society, in the 1980s and 1990s.

[RELATED: WATCH: Leftist Bill Maher rips into ‘insane’ Critical Race Theory for ‘making people crazy’]

In his new 2021 book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, Columbia University professor John McWhorter asserts that the predominant strand of anti-racist thought in America understands multiculturalism as the principle that “What is not your culture is not for you, and you may not try it or do it.”

The division in American society today, whether on or off campus, is fueled by the assumptions underlying multiculturalism.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, said during his 2016 run for the White House that the United States should not pursue multiculturalism, because its practical application creates “isolated pockets” that ultimately do not integrate with each other.  

These “isolated pockets” are the result of intangible cultural borders erected between social groups that expel those whose norms and values are unwelcome in the given space.

That dynamic informs college students’ impulse to banish White classmates from multicultural spaces as well as some Netflix employees’ desire to banish what they dislike.

Assimilation is the alternative approach to diversity most often contrasted against multiculturalism, as it incentivizes cultural integration as a means for social cohesion.

Ben Thornton, professor at California State University Fresno, has characterized assimilation as the tradition of immigrant communities in America participating fully in the culture of their new home without losing their distinct customs and practices.

An example of assimilation applied in a Western country is the series of gender equality classes Norway gave to men from the Near and Middle East who migrated to the Scandinavian country.

As The New York Times reported in 2015, Norwegian officials found it imperative to acquaint culturally paternalistic male immigrants with these values to ensure women in the country would not endure discrimination.  

How convenient that the same progressives that want to overhaul America’s economy into a Scandinavian welfare state, but also benefit from the woke political activism, leave out this element of Nordic culture?

[RELATED: UPDATE: Activists accost Sen. Sinema in campus restroom]

Writing in 2011 on social upheaval in California, Thornton concluded that multiculturalist polices in the nation’s largest state had resulted in “more inter-ethnic conflict and more ignorance about what constitutes America and its core principles.”

But the dominance that campus-driven wokeness has on every facet of American life continues to shape to “inter-ethnic conflict” that Thornton noted a decade ago.

Some critics have dubbed the left’s current obsession with being woke “The Great Awokening” in a nod to the religious fervent of the Great Awakening.   

Though it would be inaccurate to say that every progressive immigration, social, and economic policy in America is multiculturalism, it is not an exaggeration to assert that the ideals underlying multiculturalism inform how the left approaches its activist goals.

From the Biden administration down to the college classroom, the left’s multiculturalist politics are defined by their hypocrisy.

They love open borders and diversity – the Biden administration railed against President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico,” fighting the court-ordered reinstatement of the immigration policy – as long as the escalation of neither challenges their woke hierarchy, which McWhorter argues is the ordering of preferred minority and oppressed groups present in anti-racist rhetoric.  

The bottom line for the woke, “anti-racist” left: Everyone is welcome so long as they know their place.   

The term “Latinx,” for example, is the product of a predominantly White liberal elite telling a racial, ethnic, and linguistic minority they must contort their language to conform with the gender-neutral ideals of an English-speaking political class.

Only 4% of Hispanics and Latinos want to use the term, according to CNN, but that doesn’t stop university officials and academics – who, if colleges are to be believed, are disproportionately White – from compelling others on campus and in media to use the phrase.

The arrogance it must take to be so morally certain of another people’s language could choke a giant.

In 2020, the University of Southern California suspended Greg Patton, a professor of business communication, after he taught the class a Chinese filler word that would help Westerners understand another culture, but which also sounded similar to the n-word in English.

So much for being global citizens.

Despite support from the school’s Chinese alumni, who confirmed the accuracy and significance of his instruction, Patton was still penalized because a group of Western English-speaking students was uncomfortable with the utterance.

That USC incident embodies the faux acceptance of difference that the left peddles to the well-meaning but gullible and naïve element of this country.

Activist-minded leftists act unhinged because they have intellectually unhinged their ideals from the real situations around them.

Seeing their political ideology as truth and not a means to comprehend the world, these radicals cannot process how a marketplace of ideas facilitates policy debates or produces sound alternative solutions.

But markets are more than a metaphorical problem for the woke and the leftists.

Markets create exchange of goods, services, and people; and that freedom of movement between borders affronts the woke understanding of multiculturalist diversity that McWhorter describes in his book.

Markets encourage individuals to try and do things.

Radical activists will never be comfortable with the outcome of those exchanges so long as their cultural allegiances embrace a politics rooted in leftist opposition to capitalist enterprise.

Free markets and legal immigration created the conditions necessary for USC to offer curriculum in non-Western cultural norms for aspiring businessmen. They also enabled foreign students to study in America and learn about the culture while exposing others to new ideas and customs.

That is why unhinged activists act how they do. They are stuck in a paradox of their own design and can only work through the contradictions by shouting and hurling around.