The american dream and its enemies might stand as the headline for this issue of City Journal. That dream is very much alive and still comes true, our stories show; but from coast to coast, those who claim to be helping the poor, the minority, and the immigrant are filling them with ideas that will keep them from making that dream a reality.
The good news about the dream is very good indeed, as Steven Malanga shows in “Minority Business Triumphs in Gotham”. During the 1990s, New York saw an explosion of minority enterprise; minority firms came to account for fully a quarter of the city’s businesses and to employ 12 percent of its workers. Not traditional “minority” firms, these are sizable manufacturing companies, design firms, magazine publishers, ad agencies—mainstream businesses with prosperous owners and secure employees. Latino self-employment more than doubled in five years; black self-employment shot up 76 percent, squelching the stereotype that blacks aren’t entrepreneurial. This development is as good social news as it is economic: the wished-for melding of minorities into the majority is taking place.
But on the other coast, the news is not so good. Thousands of Mexicans are flooding into California each year in search of the American dream, but, Victor Davis Hanson reports in “Do We Want Mexifornia?” on page 12, they too often don’t progress beyond menial jobs, and their children are forming an underclass, with high and growing rates of illegitimacy and criminality.
Hanson writes from an unusual perspective: he lives on the family farm where he grew up, at the very heart of this immigration; many family members are married to Mexican immigrants; his deeply valued students at Fresno State are predominantly Mexican. He knows firsthand how indomitable a work ethic the immigrants have; he feels personally the tragedy of their scant success. And he argues persuasively that their failure to learn English, to get their children educated, to assimilate, to become—and to feel themselves—American citizens are the fruits of the multiculti, separatist, welfarist claptrap the race industry showers upon them. Immigration and multiculturalism don’t mix, he argues: it is the uniquely American dream the immigrants came here to seek, and the multiculti advocates lead them away from achieving it.
Assimilation so complete that it includes even a multiracial, multiethnic elite has been a long-cherished democratic dream, and what better place to make it a reality than in the nation’s prep schools. These traditional nurseries for America’s leaders have made diversity their watchword—in order, one might hope, to create exactly that colorblind elite that in its confident solidarity could lead us to the promised land beyond race-consciousness. But no. As Heather Mac Donald chronicles in “The Prep-School PC Plague”, as the great private schools have increasingly recruited minority students, they have also adopted the whole multicultural orthodoxy. Their curricula and their institutional cultures now emphasize everything that divides, rather than unites, their students. And what makes their missed opportunity more tragic is that their students are, by and large, instinctively colorblind and must be taught to see their fellows as Other.
The schools imported their divisive orthodoxy from the universities, of course, and John H. McWhorter’s “The Mau-Mauing at Harvard” looks in at the sanctum sanctorum of that orthodoxy, Harvard’s Afro-American studies department, and considers its recent dustup with Harvard’s new president. It’s an unedifying sight. Here, at the very center of the national establishment is the flower of the black professorate purveying a vision of the black experience in America as nothing but insult and injury, and implying, in its dispute with Harvard’s president, that blacks in academia are to be judged by less stringent standards than whites. This damaging worldview grows all the more destructive when such elite sponsorship augments its divisive authority on campus and beyond.
Finally, Theodore Dalrymple tells the story of Ray Honeyford, a British school principal who 15 years ago tried heroically to help his Muslim immigrant students assimilate into the British mainstream, teaching them standard English and British history and culture. Without these tools for success, he believed, they would remain marginalized, a force for social unrest. For his efforts, he was branded a racist and forced out of his job. As for the unrest he foresaw: the town where he taught exploded into brutal race riots last summer.