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above: Stanley Meets Livingstone, wood engraving print, signed for authenticity by Henry M. Stanley, 1872 (Library of Congress)

Society & Culture

Deconstructing the Decolonizers

Dr. Ingratitude, I presume?

“Decolonization” is the new badge for right-thinking professors and teachers. The word reveals more about those who use it than about their imaginary oppressors. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The great haters in our midst have the word “hate” perpetually on their lips. So do the decolonizers.

What that term means is that the Western world must no more dwell upon the works of the Western past, and to the extent those works are treated, it must be done with ingratitude and disparagement. Let me illustrate.

0421-COLONIZATION-1Dan-el Padilla Peralta, professor of classics at Princeton, confesses that he feels uncomfortable with the “whiteness” of his field. He wants to take Greece and Rome down from their places of honor. Peralta is black, and emigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child. He does not appear to share the gratitude and the sense of liberty that W.E.B. Du Bois felt when he studied the classics: “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not…I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension.”

DuBois, of course, was no conservative; he was a Stalinist in the days of Khrushchev. But that is part of the point. The classical...

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