The Corner

The Soft Bigotry of Multiculturalism

Subaltern studies, post-colonial studies, and other theory-saturated, fact-deprived academic rackets are dedicated to the proposition that an Edenic Third World was knocked off its natural course toward prosperity and universal justice by Western colonialists. Whites introduced racism, sexism, and economic inequality into Africa and tropical Asia; the West’s rationalistic legal and moral codes distorted more authentic ways of thinking and were in any case just a smokescreen for power and oppression.

Unfortunately, the tolerant, peace-loving Third Worlders don’t always follow the subaltern-studies script. That failure to conform is especially noticeable when it comes to homosexuality. Yesterday, the United Methodist Church voted against changing its doctrine that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” due in large part to opposition from non-Western members:

[After] several Americans begged delegates to “hear the pain” of gay church members . . . a delegate from Africa said in Swahili that saying that a homosexual person was created by God was like saying “that God created me to live with animals.”

Reports the New York Times:

The translator apologized while rendering the remarks into English.

Leaving aside the substance of the African delegate’s remark, one’s jaw drops at its sheer audacity. Or perhaps it is not audacious at all; perhaps the African has no idea how large is the abyss that separates his worldview from that of the West. More likely, however, he is aware of that abyss (though he could probably not imagine its full extent), but is utterly confident that he and his fellow Africans possess the God-given truth that decadent Westerners have long since destroyed.

So what is a relativistic multiculturalist to do? Embrace the anti-gay intolerance of the Third World in the name of multicultural understanding, or impose Western values in the name of identity-politics tolerance? Africa will undoubtedly grow more gay-friendly over time, but it will do so not out of any indigenous Third World traditions, but because of the inexorable march of Western individualism and the concept of rights — precisely those constructs scorned by the academic Left when it plays at being itself oppressed. 

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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