On July 12, the Washington Post published an oped titled, “Western civilization and presidential hypocrisy” in which Lawrence Summers “jokes” that “the American Studies Association should be renamed the anti-American Studies Association since it sees America largely through its sins against minority groups.” The following is a letter to the editor in response which the WP did not publish.
To the Editor
I was delighted to read in your publication of Lawrence Summers’ piece “Hypocrisy and Western Civilisation” (13 July) that he has been reading American Quarterly, the flagship journal of the American Studies Association. But I was puzzled by his description of the ASA as the 'anti-American Studies Association’ because of our attention to “America's sins against its minority groups." Mr. Summers seems to understand 'America' and 'minority groups' as somehow separable, which is especially striking given that segregating these entities only reinforces the presidential logic of the "West versus the Rest" that Mr. Summers finds so hypocritical. I would invite him to revisit the pages of our journal and read more carefully. In the ASA our mission as educators is the furtherance of critical knowledge of American history, culture, and politics. Our members would be pleased to see Mr. Summers' writing reflect the kind of critical thinking to which we are dedicated to proliferating.
President, American Studies Association (2017-18)