Chinese Americans who experienced the Cultural Revolution in China want to educate their American counterparts on what they see as the American version of the Culture Revolution in the 21st century.
Cai Kefeng (Choi Horfung), former president of the Overseas Chinese Writers Association, and Mary Chen, a journalist in New York share their comments and observations of the current cultural climate in America, which has seen some sharp changes in recent months.
For example, two months ago, a white Spanish teacher at Oklahoma State University spoke at an online conference of educators, saying that she had resigned from her teaching position because white people shouldn’t be teaching Spanish. She also declared that she was determined to “continue to struggle and grapple” with her “internalized white supremacy.”
Cai said that what is happening in the United States reminds him of Mao Zedong’s era in China.
In late April, Southern Connecticut State University held a two-day seminar on “Gender, Race, Community & Conflict: Pursuing Peace and Justice.” One of the speakers, Jessica Bridges, a Ph.D. candidate and a Spanish-language teacher, talked about her self-reflection as a white woman.
According to the report by The Post Millennial, Bridges said: “I wish I could go back and tell my students not to learn power or correctness from this white woman. I would tell them to stand in their own power. White isn’t right.”
“We’re deconstructing our emotions around acknowledging our whiteness and white privilege through the lens of grief and the process of grief,” she said. “We talked about mourning our white morality. I’m holding myself accountable to this journey. Part of my accountability is to continue to struggle and grapple with my internalized white supremacy. It means I’m not going to teach Spanish. Accountability is ongoing because there is no end to the process.”
Bridges went on to argue that white women are complicit in white supremacy, and that the pandemic last year inspired her to make “anti-racism and white women’s complicity and anti-racist work” the subject of her dissertation.
She then criticized herself for not going far enough in “anti-racism” and explained her journey to become an “anti-racist” white woman, which is how she became a Marxist.
Bridges learned Marxism in a workshop and became an “anti-racist” from that day on. Part of the reason she accepted Marxism was that she realized she “was a colonizer,” which made her sick. She said a white man in her class cried when he realized he was a “racist colonizer.” The Spanish teacher felt guilty for teaching Spanish, because as a white woman she was “necessarily teaching a power structure and upholding white supremacy,” even though Spanish is a European language. Bridges believed that white people should not teach Spanish, and having the “right race of person” teaching the language is more important than keeping the job she spent so much time getting.
Overseas Chinese: The American Cultural Revolution is Similar to the Chinese One
Cai said that he calls it the U.S. version of the Cultural Revolution in China, because it is very similar to the indoctrination of class struggle imposed on Chinese people during that time.
“Back then in China, only the poor and lower-middle peasants and workers considered themselves right. Other people could all be labeled ‘gangster.’ If one person said something wrong, the whole family would be implicated. This made everyone worry about saying wrong things. Everything could be raised to the plane of political principle, forming a widespread atmosphere of terror.”
In 1966, then CCP leader Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in China to purge dissidents within the Party and reassert his authority. The movement lasted for a decade until his death in 1976. It was a decade in which the CCP destroyed traditional Chinese culture and brought down any intellectual who dared to speak the truth, with a legacy of pain and violence that reverberated through Chinese politics and society for decades to come.
Cai said that in order to avoid making mistakes, teachers could teach only one sentence in a 45-minute class: “Long live Chairman Mao.” They did not dare to teach anything else, neither did research departments dare to mention new research projects. “No one dared to make decisions and waited for instructions from their superiors for everything. In short, it was safest not to do anything, so everyone acted passively and Chinese people remained poor collectively. Eventually, China was pushed to the brink of collapse.”
Meanwhile, Mao’s cult of personality became more and more extreme. An educated youth sent to the countryside was drowned in a river because he had put a newspaper with “Mao’s Quotations” under his hips. Other educated youth were scared to death. Everyone was in fear of being killed.
At the time, there were 99 “family origin codes” to divide classes. At the top of the structure were workers and peasants, at the bottom were landlords and capitalists. “If a family owns five mu of land, it becomes a landlord.” There were also many absurd divisions, such as “Five Red Categories” (people belong to five subclasses favored by the CCP), “Five Black Categories” (five types of people, based on their class background, were considered as enemies of the CCP), “Monsters” and so on.
Similar to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which focused on class and family background, Cai said the American Cultural Revolution also focuses on people’s family background, which is skin color. Students from black families have privileges in college admission, while Asian and white people in this country are now treated like one of China’s “Five Black Categories.”
What will come out of the American version of the Cultural Revolution? According to Cai, first of all, there’s going to be a slowdown—a decline in productivity. For instance, it’s safest for the police not to arrest any suspects. Everyone slacks off at work or takes unemployment benefits at home, just like those Chinese welfare recipients, known as “welfare Dama” among Chinese, who use food stamps to buy lobster, steak, and American Ginseng. “Many who buy these things in Chinatown use food stamps and have a better quality of life than average migrant workers,” Cai said.
“In the face of this American turmoil that is getting out of control, we can only speak out and share our experience about the Chinese Cultural Revolution as much as possible. When comparing it with the current situation in the United States, it will inspire people to reflect.”
During the Cultural Revolution, a large number of educated youth from Guangdong Province snuck into Hong Kong. Cai was one of them. Forty-one years ago, he came to the United States from Hong Kong as a refugee. Six years ago, he published a book called “Memorializing Those Who Escaped Before and During The Cultural Revolution,” which is a true account of his experiences and those of many other stowaways around him during that period. The book describes three generations of stowaways.
The US Is ‘Running into Communism’
Mary Chen, a journalist in New York for more than 30 years, said her Chinese friends are also talking about the so-called “anti-racism” movement, saying “it’s the same kind of anti-intellectual behavior that Chinese intellectuals engaged in during the Cultural Revolution or the Yan’an Period (The dawn of an era that confounded right and wrong ).”
“The various political platforms proposed by the radicals have become intolerably absurd,” Chen said. “Under the guise of gender equality, they are not distinguishing men from women. [They are] eliminating important subjects such as mathematics and calculus on the pretext of treating certain ethnic minorities fairly; distorting American history and vandalizing artifacts; preaching that whites have an innate ‘original sin’ and need to kneel down and make reparations to African-Americans; recruiting students and arranging leadership or technical teams all based on the so-called ethnic origin, regardless of talent and actual needs …,” and so on.
For those of her generation who lived through the Cultural Revolution, Chen said, “All of these [absurdities] are like history repeating itself. The radicals are doing their best to make America run into communism.”
Will the vast majority of Americans accept policies that defy humanity and turn back the wheel of history? Chen believes that “the great Americans will not accept this so-called ‘political correctness’ as obediently as the Chinese who have long been brainwashed by the CCP.”
“As Americans of Chinese descent who have suffered so much, we must not sit idly by. We should boldly raise our voices and join the ranks of people upholding truth and traditional values,” she said.