The Cultural Shift

Diversity is one of those words that has no bad connotations. Whether it’s used in business – as in “to diversity” your investments – or in demographics, the word can do no wrong.  Or, so it seems.

An op-ed in the NY Times this week by Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, urged public museums around the country to reflect the new reality of our multi-cultural society.  In short, to put their Western Civilization exhibits in the basement and highlight the myriad cultures that make up the diverse American population.  Did I mention that Mr. Walker is African American?

As the man who doles out Ford Foundation money – some half a BILLION dollars each year – museums better listen. Walker’s angle is that even though Euro-Americans keep these museums alive, it is more important to attract people of color through their doors.  And, people of color see no connection with Greece, Rome, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, or Euro-Caucasian art.  For that matter, they all condemn the Age of Exploration which ruined their cultures.  But they also have a problem with museum board members.

Recently, the Whitney Museum in New York was besieged by “Decolonize This Place,” an activist group that has previously led protests at the Brooklyn Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. The group denounced the vice chairman of the Whitney board for owning a company that manufactures the tear gas grenades used to disperse illegal aliens at our southern border. He resigned…of course!

Those who encourage diversity and multiculturalism better get a handle on what these terms really mean. The old saw that there can be too much of a good thing certainly applies to diversity.  I believe Mussolini once said, “The only primacy that counts is the primacy of offspring [population].” This is exactly what is driving the cultural shift in the U.S. and Europe.

You cannot fault people of color for wanting their children to be inspired, to have role-models, and experience cultural relevance in schools, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and politics. Similarly, we founded the Italic Institute in 1987 because America had replaced our classical heritage with a movie version of our culture.  Sadly, we found that the real distorters were in our own community.  However, the new minorities have leapfrogged their own shortcomings and mobilized words like diversity and racism to supercharge their challenge to Euro-Americans.

As Walker wrote, “[museums] are guardians of a fading social and demographic order.”  He may as well add that museums are just one target of this cultural revolution.  Everything is on the table: textbooks, art, holidays, government, even language – gender activists actually want us to insanely replace “he/she” with “they.”  Even nonsense is not to be criticized.

Minorities have tapped into public largesse for decades to build ethnically-specific museums and cultural centers. Even the Jewish community has been given gratis government buildings for Holocaust museums.  If our public museums are now to bury Euro exhibits to spotlight minority art and history, Western Civilization will ultimately be in the hands of its “victims.”

Lest you think there is plenty of Euro culture to go around, I direct you to two bastions of Italic culture now embracing diversity:

The Calandra Institute at the City University of New York relies on an Italian American caucus in the state legislature for its existence – CUNY is not Italo-friendly.  Currently, Calandra is holding an abstract art exhibit titled “Goombarooch Resignified,” (whatever that means) by an artist whom I assume is a local goombah.  In October, a return seminar on “Guido Culture” will enlighten whatever vacuous public shows up.  These are the same Italian American academics who have publicly denounced Columbus Day.

At the Italian Academy at Columbia University, the bane of my existence, a coming event is titled “The Restitution Debate: African Art in Global Society.” Thanks to “generous” funding from the Italian Academy (why not?) the debate is being run by the Institute of African Studies at Columbia.   To further diversity, this Academy – governed by a majority of Germans, Jews and Irish, with no Italian Americans – new fellowships have been awarded to graduate students “from Nigeria, Japan, Australia, Turkey, and the Balkans.”

Not to be glum, but I believe diversity may have gone too far. -JLM

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