Multicultural Mistakes


Daniel Choi's opinion piece, Multicultural Malaise (January 27, Crimson) fails to acknowledge the silences which pervade intercultural discourse in American and on this campus. An Ethnic Studies program would gather together the voices and experiences of peoples who, if recognized at all within current academia, are only footnotes to the more established canon.

Choi raises the obvious criticism that ethnic and gender studies tend to "institutionalize...their own marginalization," but no one who has perused the Courses of Instruction searching for a course in ethnic studies could remain under the delusion that he or she is studying something mainstream. Choi's "over 130" such courses listed under "Courses Related to Ethnic Studies..." look like they were compiled from a key-word serach rather than with any concern for "thoroughness, accuracy," or "above all, curiosity."

Exceptionally offensive is Choi's insistence upon an absolute standard of oppression, by which he defines the academic legitimacy of African-American and Women's Studies, over and against other fields, such as Asian and Latino American Studies. Cultural heritage is not defined by oppression, nor can oppression be reductively standardized.

Choi misses the point when he equates ethnicity with race, "as a primary analytical category." Such an essentialist approach precludes an inter-ethnic discourse and stifles any contribution by ethnic minorities to mainstream American culture. Multicultural studies tries to move away from a criterion of "race" to one of "ethnicity" in order to pursue a more profound understanding of cultural experience.

Ethnic Studies seeks neither to rank human experiences in some hierarchy of legitimacy, nor to dissolve rigorous academic pursuits into a morass of relativism. Instead, it proves that nothing in human experience is as simple as it may seem in a first-year survey course. --Timothy "Cage" Hall, '94   Ajitha L. Reddy, '94   Yu Wong, '94