Several people associated with traditionalRIGHT recently attended the National Policy Institute conference in Washington, D.C. (I did not go). The conference raised a question they asked me: can America be successful as a multi-racial society?
To answer that question, and many others, conservatives turn to history. History tells us America was successful—well-ordered, safe, and prosperous—in the past, despite being multi-racial and multi-ethnic. However, that America also had something we have lost: a highly successful common culture.
America’s historic culture reflected the origin of its people. It was, from broadest to most specific, Judeo-Christian, white, northern European, and Anglo-Saxon. Most of our early settlers came from Great Britain or Germany. They brought the historic culture of those areas with them, and it became ours.
The United States was highly fortunate, because Anglo-Saxon culture is a functional culture. Despite the blatherings of “multiculturalism,” very few cultures work well over time. Outside the Western tradition, only Chinese culture makes the grade. Even within the West, not all cultures are equal. Northern European culture has created order and prosperity better than southern European culture, at least in the modern period. That is why North America has had a happier history than South America. Even within northern Europe, some cultures work better than others. The top position is occupied by exactly the culture we got: Anglo-Saxon culture. Again, thanks to some accidents of history—North America had little gold to draw the Spaniards—we were lucky.
If our early ethnic origins formed our culture, a development that began in England in the 18th century refined it: the adoption by society as a whole of the values of the middle class. That triumph was marked by the huge success of Richardson’s novel Pamela around 1750; Fielding’s satire written in response and in defense of upper-class values, Shamela, (a far better read), could not stem the tide. Lower-class values held their physical if not moral ground until the Victorians came along. One of their many great achievements was bringing the lower classes to embrace middle-class values and, eventually, behavior. If we look at America in its most successful years, roughly 1890 to 1960, we see a country that was culturally overwhelmingly middle class and, at least in the public square, Anglo-Saxon.
That country was also multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Then as now, America had a substantial black minority. It took longer to adopt middle class values and (again, at least in the public square) Anglo-Saxon behavior, but it did. By the inter-war years, and up into the 1960s, the black urban community was not a bad place. It was safe, for blacks and whites alike. In the 1950s, 80% of black children belonged to families with a married mother and father. Those families’ incomes came from work, not welfare. Most of them kept their houses and yards neat and tidy. They gathered two or three times a day for home-cooked meals. Black women knew how to hold jobs and be good homemakers at the same time. Especially for women and children, the black church played central roles. You will never meet better Christians (or cooks) than the black “church ladies.”
America was also multi-ethnic. Beginning with the Irish and the Italians in the 19th century, Americans’ origins broadened out far beyond their original British and German sources. The process was fraught with difficulties, and beginning in 1920 we limited the number of immigrants to ensure we could acculturate them adequately. But acculturate them we did. So successful were the New York City public schools as agents of acculturation that even in that babble of many tongues, immigrants from places as different from Britain and Germany as the ghettos of Poland and the mountains of Amenia were acculturated in two, sometimes one, generation. At home, in their churches, and in their clubs they might maintain their ethnic traditions, but in the public square most became middle-class Anglo-Saxons. If they wanted to get ahead, they had to.
What has turned America into an increasingly dysfunctional country has not been race or ethnicity, but abandonment of the common culture. “Multiculturalism,” which is a tool cultural Marxists use to destroy their hated enemy, Western culture, has wrecked the place. The virtually unanimous consensus of American elites on the need for all citizens, regardless of race or ethnic origins, to “Americanize,” i.e. to adopt middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture, has been replaced with a doctrine intended to fracture the country. Regrettably, it has succeeded. No one has suffered more from its loss than America’s blacks, where a disastrous culture of instant gratification now holds wide sway.
Conservatives know that what worked in the past can work again. We can again become a well-ordered and prosperous country if we again embrace the common culture we used to share; middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture. Our success was a product of that culture. The first step in brining it back is to overturn the intellectual and political hegemony of cultural Marxism and break “multiculturalism,” its sword.