Ventura guilty of modernism, not racism

When criticized for hiring a low percentage of African-Americans to serve in his administration, Gov. Jesse Ventura countered that his choices were made on a “color-blind” basis. Ventura might deserve to be prodded to try harder to find qualified black candidates, but it is patently unfair to call him Jesse “The Racist” Ventura, as some demonstrators who held up placards bearing that epithet did at last weekend’s rally at the Capitol.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s initial reaction to Ventura’s “color-blind” comment was one of anger, ridicule and derision. One local television story showed an African-American spokesman saying such thinking was “old” and outdated, and people “don’t think that way anymore.”
All Ventura is “guilty” of is the sin of using an old form of idealism in trendy America. Ventura’s opposition to racial bigotry takes the modern, as opposed to postmodern, form. And for that he, like any white male who dares to oppose racism in a manner that doesn’t happen to precisely toe the politically correct line, is demonized.
If the notion that something can be modern and old is confusing, it is because the term “modern” is generally misunderstood. Modern does not mean new, current or contemporary. Modernism is a world view that peaked during the 1960s and mostly has to do with great optimism about the technological era and science. Modernists, because of their faith in scientific thinking, see quality as an objective, measurable reality which has nothing to do with race or gender. When Ventura says he hired the most qualified candidates without regard to their ethnic background, he was applying a thoroughly modern standard of evaluation.
Modernism views racial harmony as a melting pot that denies that differences between ethnic groups are important. Dwelling on our differences is, in itself, racism. The racial idealism of modernists is epitomized by the original “Star Trek” television show, in which people from different backgrounds were all equally eligible for top-ranking social or political positions. Better yet, “The Mod Squad,” where one African-American, one woman and one white man sharing equal status demonstrates this viewpoint. Some modern anthropologists went so far as to assert that the concept of race was fictional — there is only one human race.
By the late 1970s, modernism was falling out of favor with much of the intellectual establishment. It was replaced with postmodernism, a worldview which scorned modernism as an obsolete tool used by evil white Western European men to wield patriarchal control over the world and wreak havoc on the environment.
Postmodernists prefer a pluralistic “rainbow” model of multiculturalism. They argue that the color-blind ideal is actually used, as the Rev. Ralph Staten of the Coalition of Black Churches explained at a January rally against the governor, as an excuse to discriminate.
Modernistic ideals are reviled by the ideologically fashion-conscious postmodernists as naãve. But postmodern multiculturalism is no less oversimplistic than modern color blindness. Name calling and McCarthyistic bullying have been favorite tactics of unsophisticated, politically correct, postmodern liberals for enforcing their intellectual agenda. Dissent of any kind is met with knee-jerk accusations of racism and sexism. Early on, the fear factor was effectively deployed by radical lesbian feminists like Andrea Dworkin as a means of diverting criticism: If you disagreed with them, you were a “rapist.” If you want to tackle the problem of racism in any way that departs from the post-modernist rainbow strategy, the race card might be played against you. Postmodern counterparts to 1950s red-baiters too often simply reverse sexual and racial bigotry in reactionary rebellion against modernism.
Perhaps we are entering a time when modernism vs. postmodernism will resonate with the body politic and the conservative vs. liberal paradigm will become a largely obsolete way to think about or evaluate such issues as race and gender. Perhaps the only reason conservative vs. liberal hasn’t been replaced by modern vs. postmodern is because the academic community has obscured any discussion about the latter from popular consideration with its obsessively convoluted and inaccessibly esoteric tendencies.
Ventura’s election should be taken as a clear sign that while modernism is considered passÇ among elitists within the ivory towers of academia and the political correctness mafia that they have spawned, the general public continues to hold fast to many of the ideals of modernist thought. When demonstrators marched at the state Capitol, they were perfectly justified in questioning Ventura. They should ask, for example, how many African-Americans applied for positions with his administration. They should find out who those specific candidates were and lobby for the most qualified.
Name calling and blanket charges of racism are intellectual intimidation and fear-mongering no better than the Red Scare, and the insistence that the governor name people to his cabinet or administration based solely on their ethnic background is a cry for empty tokenism.

Pete Wagner is a Daily editorial cartoonist and a graduate student in Multimedia Design. He welcomes comments by e-mail to [email protected]