Jacques Barzun on race relations

Race: A study in superstition was first published in 1937 with the focus on the Continent and reprinted in 1965 with a new Preface on Racism Today to refer to the state of play in the USA.

When injustice is redressed, the hitherto outcast and maligned group must not benefit in reverse from the racism they justly complained of. They do not suddenly possess, as a group, the virtues they were formerly denied and it is no sign of wisdom in the former oppressors to affect a contrite preference for those they once abused…And no demonstration is needed to show that to change the supremacy of one “race” for that of another leaves social justice as much violated as before.

Barzun went on to talk about the situation when some representative of a group is depicted in a work of art or literature in a way that some find offensive. He instanced the repeated attempts to have The Merchant of Venice banned and Huckleberry Finn removed from library shelves.

This anxious wrangling which goes on about books and plays seems at times trivial but it is in fact fundamental. If democratic culture yields on this point no prospect lies ahead but that of increased animosity among pressure groups…In social and cultural relations the law rarely intervenes effectively; the protection of rights and feelings only comes from decency and self-restraint.

Interesting! We were warned.

A summary of Barzun’s remarkable career.

He wrote more than twenty books, edited a similar number and contributed countless chapters to others, plus journal articles, Introductions and Forewords for books by other authors.

He fought a long battle against what he called hokum, ideas with no basis, which gain spurious credibility by repetition. One of these bits of hokum is the description of the 1800s as the century of laissez faire. He pointed out that the era of laissez faire in Britain was probably as short as a decade, from the repeal of the tariffs on imported grain (the Corn Laws) to the introduction of the Factory Acts and similar regulations.

Barzun grew up in Paris and Grenoble, the only child in a household where his parents conducted a modernist salon. His father worked in the Ministry of Labour but his heart was elsewhere. He wrote novels and poetry and hosted the likes of Apollonaire, who taught Jacques how to tell the time on his watch, and Marie Laurencein who painted his portrait. Other regular visitors included the painters Gleizes and Duchamp, the composer Varese and foreigners such Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington and Stegan Zweig. Members of the older generation such as Andre Gide also appeared occasionally to find out what the wild young men were up to.

He completed high school in the USA and in 1923 he entered Columbia College, graduating four years later at the top of his class. This earned him a lecturing position at Columbia University where he became a full professor in 1945, Dean of the Graduate Faculties in 1955, and the inaugural Dean of Faculties and Provost of the University in 1958. This level of involvement in administration by a serious teacher and scholar has few parallels and it adds authority to his account of the travails of the universities that flowed from their mushroom-like growth.

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5 Responses to Jacques Barzun on race relations

  1. zyconoclast

    Congressional Record–Appendix, pp. A34-A35

    January 10, 1963

    Current Communist Goals
    EXTENSION OF REMARKS OF HON. A. S. HERLONG, JR. OF FLORIDA
    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    Thursday, January 10, 1963

    1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.
    2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.
    3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.
    4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.
    5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.
    6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.
    7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.
    8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under supervision of the U.N.
    9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.
    10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.
    11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)
    12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.
    13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.
    14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.
    15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
    16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
    17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
    18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.
    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”
    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.
    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”
    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”
    29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.
    30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”
    31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.
    32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.
    33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.
    34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
    35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.
    36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.
    37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.
    38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].
    39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.
    40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.
    41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
    42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use [“]united force[“] to solve economic, political or social problems.
    43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.
    44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.
    45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court
    Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/watchwomanonthewall/2011/04/the-45-communist-goals-as-read-into-the-congressional-record-1963.html#uXPXWPDQAT0eYzZl.99

  2. Rafe Champion

    Arthur Lovejoy, 1873 – 1962 historian of ideas.

    Lovejoy was active in the public arena. He helped found the American Association of University Professors and the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. However, he qualified his belief in civil liberties to exclude what he considered threats to a free system. Thus, at the height of the McCarthy Era (in the February 14, 1952 edition of the Journal of Philosophy) Lovejoy stated that, since it was a “matter of empirical fact” that membership in the Communist Party contributed “to the triumph of a world-wide organization” which was opposed to “freedom of inquiry, of opinion and of teaching,” membership in the party constituted grounds for dismissal from academic positions.

  3. Norman Church

    Fascinating, Rafe. What is more, an object lesson in the perils of historical ignorance.

  4. Since around 1980, or even as far back as the National Wage Case of 1967, there has been a decline in aboriginal health, education and employment prospects, despite huge increases in real government expenditure in those areas. This decline can be hard to detect in government statistics. I suspect the reason for this is because averages are being buoyed by the inclusion of so many middle class whites in the growing “indigenous” population.

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