Cultural Bingo and Harry Wu
By Jack Cashill,
In my daughter's first moments of high school, her class gets to play "Cultural Bingo." This game is to the reigning educational philosophy of "multiculturalism" what Monopoly is to capitalism except, of course, Monopoly is much more fun.
Still, had it not been for my lunch with Harry Wu, I probably would have let this quietly subversive game pass without comment. But more on the lunch later, first back to Bingo.
As the game works, each of the 25 squares on the game card poses a cultural challenge. The students pass the card around among their classmates until they find someone to meet each challenge. Bingo! This way, presumably, they learn about the respective "cultures" of their new classmates and thus begin to understand American culture writ large.
A few of the challenges are fully innocuous. Students are asked, for instance, to identify a classmate who "Is an athlete" or "Knows which human-made object is visible from the moon."
But the rest of the challenges do what multiculturalism does best: divide and aggrieve. Of the two, the "divide" part only seems the more benign. Consider, for instance, the statement, "Knows what a cannoli is."
What, you ask, could be wrong with finding a kid who can share the wonders of cannoli eating? A lot actually. First off, there are no such kids. If there were, the teacher might have asked, "Has eaten a cannoli." But this would have required a real first or second generation paisano none of whom, I suspect, were disgorged from the morning's caravan of minivans and SUVs.
Secondly, the gist of the exercise is to separate, to balkanize, to distinguish the kid by her "Italianness," even if faintly remembered. Tellingly, the Canolli-savvy student that my daughter found bore the name "Caitlin." Northern Italy, I suppose?
Not wanting to slight other ethnics, the teacher poses a range of comparable challenges: "Knows the meaning of a Seder," "Knows what Sansei means," "Knows why the Irish immigrated to the U.S. in the 1840's." For the record, a Seder is a Passover feast. A sansei is a grandchild of Japanese immigrants (I had to look this up). And as to Irish question, yea, the taters turned bad. Each of these questions gives the teacher wiggle room to introduce the tie that binds all "marginalized" Americans together. Yea, the big O. Oppression.
All ethnics may be oppressed but some clearly are more oppressed than others. Take the one Bingo challenge identified with American Indians, "Knows the significance of the Trail of Tears." That's it. Here's a stunningly brave, butt-kicking culture that bequeathed its generalized ethos to just about every camping organization in America, and all the students see of them is this bedraggled, blanketed bunch of proto-Kosovars. "Ethnic cleansing!" I can hear it coming.
Although Blacks make up no more of the school population than they do of America's, roughly 12%, four specific Bingo challenges relate to their experience--Rosa Parks, Brown vs Topeka, Juneteenth, and Kwanza. All, of course, speak to slavery, segregation, or willful separation. None addresses the fact that in the things that make up "culture" --dance, fashion, sport, music, literature, and language among others--American Blacks just happened to dominate American culture, indeed world culture, for the last half century or more. How did they do that?
Despite the fact that the school awards scholarships to Hispanics based, I suppose, on some past injustice or another, the teacher could dredge up no icons of the same. So Hispanics had to settle for "Cinquo de Mayo" and "The Secretary of HUD." True, the Secretary of HUD is Andrew Cuomo, but "Knows who Amerigo Vespucci is" is also on the Bingo card, and that would mean two Italians plus Cannolis. Most likely the teacher used a Bingo template created before Henry Cisneros was forced out of HUD for lying to the FBI about hush payments made to his mistress. Am I right, teach?
Hispanics deserve better. Though he looks no more ethnic than Ricky Nelson, Ricky Martin could serve as a poster boy for contemporary "diversity," such as it is. He dresses, speaks, thinks, eats, and dances like every other kid in North America and lives a vida just as loca. And yet for all his millions and his anglo good looks, he ranks high in the hierarchy of the oppressed because his father comes from Puerto Rico which is not exactly Mexico, but hey, there's only 25 squares. Give that boy a scholarship.
With only 25 squares, the teacher had no room for questions about things French or English, Russian or German, Chinese or Arabic among others. Nor were there any squares left for what may be the single greatest influence on the kids' culture, the Church that supports this school. But yes, the teacher did reserve one square for "Knows what an upside down pink triangle symbolizes," though the act so symbolized is a sin in the eyes of the very same church.
It gets worse. Unbeknownst to the parents who just dropped them off, these pampered little designer darlings have themselves been scarred by the oppression still epidemic in America. Cultural Bingo just gives them the chance to expose these scars to the world.
My daughter, for instance, has no trouble finding a classmate who "Has been misunderstood by a person from a different culture" or who "Has experience being stereotyped" or who, horror of horrors, "Has had his/her name mispronounced."
The truth is multiculturalists have no real interest in culture. They isolate "differences" less to showcase the advances made by a given group than to expose the abuses suffered. As they see it, rich white men have shafted just about everyone. In this dreary and divisive world view, only kooks and Kluxers would want to identify with the shaftee culture and students no more ethnic than my own 9/16, 5th generation Irish-American kids flee to programs like "Famine Studies" to shuck being whitey and share in the thrill of ethnic oppression. Hello, Yugoslavia!
LUNCH WITH HARRY
I might have been more tolerant of this truly spectacular whininess were it not for my lunch last month with Harry Wu.
If you recall, Wu made world headlines a few years back when he snuck into China to document the abuses of the Chinese "laogai," the country's chain of prison camps. Wu knows something about these camps. As a college student, he made a remark far less provocative than those in this article, for which he was sentenced to life in a laogai. He served 19 years.
"There's nothing heroic about it," he tells me with genuine modesty. Over lunch, I cajole out of him some other facts: his sister and sister-in-law were forced to denounce his father in a public square just before Chinese leftists murdered his father. They murdered his brother too. As to his mother, she killed herself in despair. Big deal, Harry. Has anyone ever mispronounced your name?
And while our kids are invited are to wallow in every little slight they have ever suffered, Chinese dissidents continue to die in the laogai every day, and Wu continues to fight for their freedom.
UNDERSTANDING AMERICA Harry Wu loves living in America. He savors the things we take for granted: a car, a house of his own, a family, the freedom to make a living as he sees fit, the freedom to say what he must or worship as he pleases.
Harry Wu has learned a good deal about human nature. He knows that even the highest ideals can be undone by fear. He understands the fear the American dissidents must have faced when they risked their wealth and their very necks to draft the brilliant, basic architecture for what would prove to be the freest, most prosperous and most tolerant "culture" the world has ever known.
More than most, Harry Wu appreciates this culture. Too bad our students never will.
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