Reedexamines the varied stances black intellectuals took during the eraof intellectual fierce debates about the meaning of multiculturalismin the 1980s and explores how African Americans confronted the studyof culture and race in higher education. Reed is satirizing the U.Ssociety’s predisposition to champion for multiculturalism. InJapaneseby spring,Ishmael Reed explores the influence and power in the U.S highereducation when supremacy over the curriculum by western civilizationis substituted by Japanese academic sensibilities at the Jack LondonCollege.
CampusLife at Jack London College and the Culture Wars
“Japaneseby spring” is set on fictional Jack London College campus, situatedin Oakland, California. The setting of this novel is critical sinceCalifornia and its higher institutions of higher learning hold avital place in the culture of wars. It is also a battleground fordiverse ideologies. “Japanese by Spring” is novel that literarytells a story of Benjamin Chappie Puttbutt, a black professor at jackLondon College who is more concerned about getting tenured than aboutthe cause of his people (Reed, 1993). The management hired him forthree years in which he spent time commuting between Afrocentristsand Eurocentrists. The sole aim of Chappie is get tenure, for whichhe shall be criticizing other people and issues, including condemningaffirmative action and defending white students’ violent and racistattacks on black students (Reed, 1993). To the African Americastudents, Chappie was an Uncle Tom, as he argues that AfricanAmericans should not be confrontational but be affirmative.
Throughoutthe novel Chappie keeps changing his mind like a shameless chameleon.For instance, in the sixties he was a member of then the Black PowerMovement and strongly believed that black was beautiful. In theeighties, he became a feminist because he hoped the feminists couldvote for his tenure yet they betrayed him. In the nineties, Chappiewas convinced that in the 21st century Japan was going to be morepowerful than the Americas. As a result, he began learning Japaneseto capitalize on the new global realities (Reed, 1993).
Reedhas done a good work to highlight the intellectual and social rancorthat dominated the American society. The novel provides an eruptingattack upon varied racial and cultural groups of the academy circle.Reed’s portrayal of the existing racial problems and prejudice inJack London College shows his passion in underlining the ways inwhich monoculturalist ideology eventually leads to culturally andracist exclusive policies (Reed, 1993). It appears that issuesrelated to cultural division and prejudice persist to plague modernacademic fiction.
Reed’sperspective in relation to public policy and race is unique. Hecontends that multicultural is advantageous however, ethnic fixationis harmful. The cultural wars that plagued the American universitiesin the eighties and nineties demonstrate the need for engenderingculturalism, inclusiveness, and pluralism in the U.S Universities.The institutional power instils the intellectual gatekeepers and thepolicy makers of Jack London with the vitality. However, this stateof affair culminates with the buying of the campus by a Japanese firmthat consequently initiates an overwhelming program of culturalredefinition on college. Chappie is given the position of assistantpresident in the new administration. Chappie used his new position tosettle old scores through educational reforms. He fought westerntraditionalists and monculturalists who had little consideration andrespect for other cultures and languages. Thus, Japaneseby Springhas a successful conclusion because the multiculturalists triumphedat the Jack London Campus.
Reed,I. (1993). Japaneseby Spring.New York: Atheneum.