Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shepherd on Race and Academia

I highly recommend Reginald Shepherd's long, thoughtful post "Some Thoughts on Race Academia." I have two small glosses to the text, neither of which is about its central issues.

First of all, Shepherd writes, near the beginning: "My blog is my public face." This was hammered home to me recently when the always lively and interesting Ms. Baroque quoted a post of mine in some thoughts she had about translation. How fascinating to see how my thoughts, which had seemed rather private, were suddenly revealed to have become completely public. I stand by what I said in that post, and I do not regret going public with those comments, but I had to see the remarks quoted to fully understanding that a blog is indeed a "public face."

Right at the end of his post, Shepherd writes: "Multiculturalism is just a new word for segregation, keeping all the minorities safely in their places." This reminded me of an article by Kwame Anthony Appiah in the New York Review of Books long ago. A search in their on-line archive located it: "The Multiculturalist Misunderstanding." Here is the paragraph that struck me back in 1997:

"Coming, as I do, from Ghana, I find the broad cultural homogeneity of America more striking than its much-vaunted variety. Take language. When I was a child, we lived in a household where there were always at least three mother tongues in daily use: we spoke English (Ghana's official language and my mother's) and Twi (my father's first language); and our cook and steward, who came from further north, also spoke the language of Navrongo, where they were born. (The watchman spoke Hausa.) Ghana, with a population smaller than that of New York State, has several dozen languages in active daily use and no one language that is spoken at home—or even fluently understood—by a majority of the population."

(The full article is only available to subscribers to the archive, but I have it if anyone wants it.)

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