‘Conservatives’ Are the Real Multiculturalists
Radical leftists may not like American history, but they generally don’t lie about it. Conservatives do. Leftists usually acknowledge that the United States was founded as a white nation and they therefore try to discredit traditional American culture. In a misguided attempt to resist, many conservatives deny America’s racial roots so they can claim the country was never “racist.” The latest effort is Jim Geraghty’s article in National Review claiming “america was always diverse” because various non-whites have served in the military.
Mr. Geraghty’s premise is flawed. Subordinated peoples throughout history have served in the militaries of governments and empires. That did not result in anything like the “diversity” we are supposed to worship today.
Some of Africa’s post-colonial leaders, including Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Republic and Idi Amin of Uganda, served in the French or British army, but it would be absurd to claim that France or Britain were therefore “diverse.” American Indians fought alongside colonial troops, Revolutionary soldiers, and the American army for centuries, but they weren’t “American” in any real sense.
In multicultural and multiracial states, the military may be the one institution that includes many different groups, but this doesn’t mean the soldiers share an identity. Even in modern times, multicultural forces such as the Soviet Red Army or the army of Austria-Hungary broke apart on ethnic lines. In a historically white country, a few non-whites in the ranks don’t change the fundamentals of American identity.
Yet Mr. Geraghty argues non-whites were fundamental to American history. What’s more, he claims that “few misconceptions are more frustrating than the narrative of a largely white America—or a white and black America—gradually losing its core identity to waves of immigrants, decade by decade.” Mr. Geraghty evokes famous blacks from the Revolutionary period, such as Boston Massacre victim Crispus Attucks and the soldier Peter Salem, as well as runaway slaves and free blacks who fought in the ranks. “George Washington’s army wasn’t going to be picky; it needed all the help it could get,” he writes.
Not at first. On November 12, 1775, Washington specifically forbade “negroes” from enlisting, though he later changed his mind and let them in. In contrast, from the beginning, British authorities saw black slaves as allies against their rebellious white subjects. Two days after Washington banned blacks from the Continental Army, Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation promising freedom for African slaves who helped suppress rebellion. Virginia planters interpreted the proclamation as incitement to rebellion, and the Virginia Assembly promised any black who joined such an effort death without “benefit of clergy.” In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson condemned British efforts to recruit freed slaves, accusing the British of having “excited domestic insurrections amongst us.” Lord Dunmore’s “Ethiopian Regiment” was the most famous all-black unit during the Revolution—and it fought against the United States, not for it.
Mr. Geraghty asks fatuously whether Americans would have won independence without black soldiers. “The fact that so many fought for freedom, when they were legally and socially denied that freedom by some of their own countrymen, makes their courage and determination even more inspiring,” he writes. Yet blacks who fought on both the British and American sides probably interpreted “freedom” in a limited sense, meaning personal manumission rather than universal emancipation. Neither side in the Revolution favored abolition, though the British were more favorable to widespread manumission than were Southern planters.
Both Loyalists and Patriots used blacks against each other, just as various factions in the early stages of the Haitian Revolution offered freedom and privileges to black slaves if they would fight for their side. Of course, Haitian blacks eventually had the numbers to dispense with white authority altogether. In America, that wasn’t an option. The founding generation ultimately reserved American citizenship for “free white persons” in the first naturalization law. Most Americans didn’t see blacks as their countrymen at all.
Mr. Geraghty also claims “many Hispanics fought for the cause of American independence” and suggests Americans would know this “had the textbooks cast their view a little wider.” He cites naval hero Jordi Farragut Mesquida and various Hispanics that fought on both sides of the Civil War. While interesting, this hardly proves America was “diverse” or that there wasn’t a core Anglo-Saxon culture. Mesquida, for example, anglicized his name to George Farragut.
Mr. Geraghty also says Spain played a “key role” in the American Revolution. This is a non sequitur. Spain’s diplomatic intrigues against Great Britain don’t prove “America was always diverse” anymore than Louis XVI’s help proves the French king was a secret republican. Besides, European nations Mr. Geraghty doesn’t like, notably Russia, also played a role in assuring American independence. Catherine the Great denied a British request to send Russian troops to crush the colonists, and her “League of Armed Neutrality” undermined British efforts to use naval blockades against enemies.
Mr. Geraghty’s attempt to prove “America was always diverse” becomes parody when he earnestly points out that “at least 58 Asian Americans ended up fighting in the Civil War.” More than three million men were mobilized during the war.
Mr. Geraghty also unwittingly discredits himself when he describes Filipino soldiers: “For most of the 20th century, Filipinos were considered to be American nationals and served in the armed forces for decades, as it was considered a good route to prestige and a stable career.” This is exactly the point: Filipinos, as colonial subordinates, served in the American military, largely to advance careers. This did not make them “Americans” nor did it make America “diverse.”
The same can be said of the various Indian tribes Mr. Geraghty credits with fighting for the United States. What choice did they have, at least before the 20th century? Eastern European janissaries bravely served the Ottoman Turks, but they were rigorously excluded from the ruling national group.
Mr. Geraghty also pays tribute to the Japanese-Americans who fought in World War II, as well as one Ralph Lazo, a Mexican-American “who was so outraged by the internment of Japanese Americans that he voluntarily joined them in the internment camps for two years.” First, Mr. Geraghty ignores the reasons why Japanese were interned as a possible national security threat. Second he completely misses the significance of non-white groups aligning with each other to oppose the dominant white group. He also ignores serious problems in our current mixed-race army.
Towards the end of the article, Mr. Geraghty promotes other non-whites as if they were crucial to American history. Some of his selections are laughable, such as the black women mathematicians highlighted in the movie Hidden Figures, whom Mr. Geraghty says “probably” helped America get into space more quickly. While their contributions were praiseworthy, they were notable only because they were black women—white men like Jack Crenshow, who made much larger contributions, remain largely unknown because their efforts are taken for granted.
Similarly, Mr. Geraghty hailing “Chinese-born computer scientist Wen Tsing Chow” as singular and critical to winning the Cold War dismisses white missilemen and scientists. More importantly, it disregards the current crisis in American business and national security as Chinese and Chinese-American citizens, including some Chinese who served in the army, continue to steal our technology.
Other references don’t prove what Mr. Geraghty thinks they do. He praises Jesse Owens for supposedly “defying Hitler’s notions of genetic superiority at the 1936 Olympic Games.” Yet in Jesse Owens’s own words, “Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president who snubbed me.” Roosevelt invited white athletes to the White House but not Jesse Owens. The Daily Mail even wrote in 2009 that Hitler was reportedly photographed shaking Owens’s hand, in a photograph the Olympian carried with him proudly for the rest of his life. The truth of this claim may never be known, but even the leader of the New Deal didn’t see Owens’ victories as a triumph of diversity.
Mr. Geraghty also praises individual Jews in American history, from Revolutionary War financier Haym Solomon to Dr. Jonas Salk. One wonders what Mr. Geraghty is arguing here. George Washington famously wrote a friendly letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport in 1790, wishing that “the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Hoping Jews will “merit” the good will of Americans could be read as a warning, though that would be a stretch. Clearly, Washington saw Jews as a separate group, but also as whites, and he didn’t try to ban them from the army as he did “negroes.”
At no point in American history were Jews regarded officially as “non-white” the way blacks were, nor were they ever denied citizenship. In the very racially aware government of the Confederate States of America, the CSA’s representative to the rest of the world—the Secretary of State—was the Jewish Judah P. Benjamin. Mr. Geraghty’s apparent classification of Jews as non-white is interesting in light of the current debate over whether Jews in leftist movements are beneficiaries of “white privilege” and therefore unsuitable participants.
Mr. Geraghty, like so many other conservative movement types, is evidently trying to oppose racial identity politics. This is hard enough, but he is also trying to claim that members of almost every ethnic or racial group created the United States. He suggests separate museums for different racial and ethnic groups could be replaced by an effort to tell “all of these stories intermingled and connected. . . almost like a big, historical melting pot.” “The American experiment always had room for all races, creeds, and cultures, and members of just about every group have had a role in defending it, fighting for it, expanding it, refining it, and bleeding and dying for it,” he writes. Really? It would be easy to name scores of nationalities and ethnicities that have contributed nothing to American heritage.
Mr. Geraghty also implicitly criticizes President Trump when he writes that the “ ‘Great America’ that people want to bring back was more diverse, and more shaped by minorities, than most people recall or imagine.” This article doesn’t prove that. It simply shows a few non-whites were put to use by white leaders on various occasions or that a few non-whites did things that would be taken for granted if done by whites.
Consider what America would look like if various groups had never arrived. Without blacks, America would be different—more united, prosperous, peaceful, and strong—but certainly recognizable. Without Asians or Hispanics, American history before 1965 is practically identical to what happened anyway. Without whites, America does not exist. White America is simply America.
Of course, Mr. Geraghty’s “America” doesn’t really exist either. It is simply an “experiment” taking place on the North American landmass. One wonders what the “experiment” is designed to prove. It’s highly debatable Americans still enjoy “self-government” or “liberty” in terms the Founders would recognize. Moreover, in dismissing race, Mr. Geraghty asserts an abstract “American” identity unconnected to race, culture, religion, ethnicity, or the history of any specific people. His “America” is simply a collection of random individuals who happen to live here.
“Americans who are not ‘white’ or who don’t see themselves as ‘white’ have had an integral role in the country’s victories, expansions, breakthroughs, turning points, innovations, and triumphs of liberty (and indeed, some of its mistakes, failures, and uglier moments too,” claims Mr. Geraghty. Non-whites know better. Polls show American patriotism correlates with white racial identity, and blacks and “Chicanos” have their own quasi-nationalist movements and symbols separate from those of America. What’s more, “American” identity is likely to decline among non-whites in the future, because in a majority-minority country they will no longer have to pretend they share a common identity with whites.
Already, non-white Democrats are displacing whites of their own party. The idea that policy should favor citizens over migrants is practically verboten on college campuses and in the mainstream media. Non-whites increasingly refuse even token gestures of civic identity, such as respect for the national anthem, the flag, or national sports teams. Even the act of acquiring American citizenship has become either a bureaucratic formality or a way to defend the interests of non-whites. In this context, Mr. Geraghty’s conjuration of an “American” identity unmoored from ethnicity, culture, or an overwhelming white majority is an even more radical exercise in identity politics than suggesting that the white race exists.
What’s more, his effort is doomed. Mr. Geraghty is either naive or—more likely—cynical. As the non-white population, leftist radicalism, and anti-white hate speech continue to grow, increasingly desperate whites are looking for answers. Staking out a position in opposition to “identity politics” allows conservatives temporarily to dodge at least some accusations of racism. However, it also dooms the emerging white minority to political and cultural impotence, as non-whites will remain unmoved by inspirational appeals to American history or “principles” such as limited government. Why should blacks honor Washington or Jefferson, or American Indians rejoice over American “expansion,” or Hispanics glory in the outcome of the Mexican War? Why should those who benefit from affirmative action suddenly decry “identity politics?”
What’s more, claiming America was “always diverse” means only the ignorant or foolish rally to the conservative movement’s banner. Practically all Americans throughout history saw race as real and white identity as fundamental to American identity. Simply reading what men like Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and others said and did proves it. Denying reality ensures only leftist academics will discuss facts. A country can’t be saved by wishful thinking. White Americans must embrace their own identity, defend their own history, and fight for their own interests. Their non-white “fellow citizens” certainly won’t do it. Sadly, neither will their self-appointed leaders at National Review.