In his unique recent column, “Chronicle of the Core Foretold,” Christian Gonzalez argues through a satirical narrative tale that the Core should remain steeped in the Western canon. Although left unmentioned in his piece, he owes his creative spark to the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Colombian author who is arguably outside of the Western canon. Christian imagines a dystopian future where pesky revolutionaries demand the abolition of anything undiverse or politically incorrect, and the Core gets diversified and morphed until it’s abolished altogether. Later, discontented students realize they cannot “connect” with the world around them because they no longer have to take a Literature Humanities or Contemporary Civilization class.
I hold the opposite opinion of Christian, but I love that he makes a clear distinction between an inclusive syllabus that opens “minds to the staggering diversity of the human experience” and the current Core. With this division, his story taps into what the Core is really about. It is not about understanding the human condition because that would imply an "insight of all the world’s great cultural traditions.” What the Core really is about, as Christian reveals to us, is indoctrination into white supremacy.
This is not an inflammatory or novel accusation, just a statement of fact. When I say “white supremacy,” I am not speaking of white hoods and burning crosses. No, I am speaking of a far more recognizable and invasive form of white supremacy: the Western cultural hegemony. A curated list that specifically erases diverse voices is not a historical coincidence—it serves an agenda. In fact, Contemporary Civilization, the first class and root of the Core, was designed to uphold Western hegemony by administrators who also expressed fears about the postwar wave of refugees and Jewish immigrants. The white male voice is meant to be placed on a pedestal.
This is not to denounce the quality of each text in the Lit Hum or CC syllabi, but let’s not pretend there are not other diverse texts both outside and within the Western tradition that we can learn just as much from. Even if we were to only have diverse Western authors, we would have to study the world thanks to the effects of colonization. The white eurocentrism of the Western canon would crumble, defying the very point of a Western canon. That’s why “Chronicle of the Core Foretold” makes the sudden and illogical jump from diversification to abolition—in the imagination of the author, if the Core is diverse, what’s the point of having it at all?
So we can dispel the myth that the Core as it stands nurtures “universal human truths.” How can one tradition encompass the vast, myriad human experience? Yes, there are certain parts of life that we all encounter, but we can encounter them in different ways. Take for instance death, the “Bhagavad Gita” is centered around reincarnation; so its philosophy on life, the afterlife, and morals is miles apart from that of any Greco-Roman classical text, which would hold the belief that death is final.
I don’t mind if you enjoy the Core as it is now, because you can like something and still critique it. Just call a spade a spade—the Core does not give us a better understanding of the world through “universal themes.” Its aim is to train us into the Western cultural hegemony. It primes us to think that to understand the West is to better understand the world; like the piece says, “it was impossible to construct meaning without a set of structures and institutions and values from which to base the pursuit of further knowledge.”
As we can see from Christian’s adoration of the Core, the indoctrination is clearly working. But, unfortunately, it can leave students with a lack of awareness of things outside of the Western narrative. This is the only explanation for his audacious statement that Western culture “birthed and raised us.” Birthed whom exactly?
I cannot fathom the irony of wondering what would happen if students in the West didn’t know their cultural roots. Ask the millions of descendents of colonized people who are denied the knowledge of their own history because of white supremacy. We are given no choice but to search for and excavate the erased truth of who we truly were before, during, and after, colonization. As a black woman, how can I feel pride in classical architecture, cathedrals, and Virgil when I know that my historical heritage of the Mali empire, griots, and more was withheld from me throughout my education? If there was a better institutional celebration of diverse texts, “Chronicle of the Core Foretold” would have better considered the experiences of those of us who undoubtedly fall outside of the representation of the Core.
Well then, the drawbacks of maintaining the Core are a concerning lack of awareness, empathy, and representation for minority students, but what really is the disadvantage to diversifying the Core? Granted, if you’re a fan of the Western cultural hegemony, the idea of not reading Aristophanes in Lit Hum must be devastating, but what damage is actually done? Even with the endless possibilities of dystopian satire, the worst consequence of “Chronicle of the Core Foretold” was that people looked at Butler and had “only a vague grasp of the origins of classical architecture.” I see that, in this dystopian future, Google is abolished as well as the Core.
So, the writer of the original article is defending what the Core really is about. If we diversify the Core, we break the indoctrination into white supremacy. I actually like the idea of a set of courses that binds us together. I do not suggest scrapping all the so-called “dead white men”—they are influential. We can pick a few of their essential readings. However, if you truly want an enlightening discussion about the universal human experience, I propose a genuine interspersal of great texts from around the world throughout both semesters of Lit Hum, and especially to remove the near-homogenous Greek whitewash of the first semester. There is no doubt that the West has benefited the world but, just like how Christian failed to explicitly mention that the author who inspired him was Colombian, the West has failed to remember that it has been influenced by non-Western traditions.
You think the left is sensitive? One black woman gets added to the Lit Hum syllabus, and a guy imagines an entire narrative tale about the abolition of the Core. The Western cultural hegemony is quite safe for now. It survived the Haitian Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement. It will survive Toni Morrison on one college’s made up literature course. But, with this slow but sure progress, the white supremacist holdover culture will erode over time. And I think that’s what those who strive to maintain the Core as it is are truly worried about.
Liberty Martin is a Columbia College first-year from Thornton Heath, South London, who is currently looking to major in creative writing. She’s been loving Black History Month this year because of “Black Panther” and Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River”. You can follow her on Twitter at @libertytaking. Views from the Seven runs alternate Fridays.
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