We live in an interesting time – in a revolutionary era, in many ways. A time when changes are sometimes visible and sometimes hidden, or sometimes lurking in the background.
As in any revolutionary era, great care is needed not to throw out the babies with the bathwater.
Great care is required so that the revolutionary momentum does not destroy valuable institutions, principles, values, objects. History is full of such examples.
Something like this has started to take shape with the study of the Classics – the art and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome – and will continue if we do not respond.
In the general spirit of anti-racism – rightly so in many respects – an attempt is being made to pull down the Classics and Classical Studies from their pedestal of the leading expression of our human spirit and culture, with the accusation that it planted and cultivated racism in the world.
They ask for the cleansing of the Classics from their “whiteness.”
It is clear that political correctness has passed into ridiculousness.
But it should not be ignored because it is ridiculous. The accusations cannot go unanswered.
The New York Times published a huge article -10,000 words – titled He Wants to Save the Classics from Whiteness and with the subtitle: Can the Field Survive? (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/02/magazine/classics-greece-rome-whiteness.html)
The protagonist is a Princeton history professor, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, who was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in America.
This story can be considered to have its roots in the publication of the book “Black Athena,” about the supposed influence of Africa in the development of Ancient Athens. There was a lot of noise when that book came out, without it seriously affecting Classical Studies, but it was not without consequences.
This field of study has been in decline in America for several decades now.
Universities are cutting classes because attendance is shrinking, with the result that jobs for new graduates of Classical Studies are constantly declining. Consequently, the percentage of America’s leaders with knowledge of the Classics is also decreasing.
Recently, the far right has embraced the Classics, probably in reaction to the left, holding flags with emblems of the Roman Empire and using ancient Greek nicknames.
In fact, one of their websites uses a photo of the Parthenon with the slogan “Every month is white history month.”
For his part, Dan-El Padilla Peralta states:
“I want nothing to do with it. I hope the field dies that you’ve outlined, and that it dies as swiftly as possible.”
Obviously, although an expert on the subject, he does not take into account that the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, democracy, on the basis of which he can defend his views today, were born in Ancient Greece and form the basis of Western Civilization.
So should we tear down the foundations on which our culture is based? Seriously?