MY NAME is Lily Tang Williams and I grew up in Communist China under the reign of Mao Zedong during a painful era called the Cultural Revolution. The origins of the Cultural Revolution preceded my birth, when a Western ideology, Marxism, was injected into China by Mao.
Marxism would later evolve into Maoism. Like all forms of Marxism, Maoism epitomized the worst in humanity: division, hatred, envy, and vengeance. Unlike most revolutions, the Cultural Revolution was not a war against a regime, but a regime-inspired holy war against its own people, society, and culture. Mao’s Cultural Revolution sought to destroy the “Four Olds”: traditional ideas, culture, habits, and customs. Through it, he led a campaign to silence dissident opinions, purge his political enemies, and, in the process, destroy age-old social institutions and gain absolute power.
Identity politics was a hallmark of Maoism, dividing people into five “red classes” and five “black classes.” The “red classes” were identified as poor and lower-middle-class peasants, workers, revolutionary soldiers, cadres, and revolutionary martyrs. The “black classes” were landlords, rich farmers, counter-revolutionaries, bad-influencers, and rightists. Mao shut down the schools and universities, urged the Red Guard (urban youth) to hate and hold “Struggle Sessions” to shame the black classes publicly by forcing them to self-criticize, confess their “crimes” and denounce themselves. The consequences for defiance were assault, torture, or imprisonment at a “re-education” camp. Some children were so brainwashed they would even change their surnames, cut ties with their families, and publicly denounce and betray their families.
Mao’s Cultural Revolution was a top to bottom orchestrated social justice movement like no other. An estimated 20 million Chinese died during the Cultural Revolution due to Mao’s toxic ideas and murderous policies. Today in China, no memorials or museums to those of this forgotten holocaust exist; even the phrase “Cultural Revolution” is banned on the Internet by the Chinese government.
In today’s populist, racially-charged “social justice” movement in America, I see the shadows of the Cultural Revolution in Critical Race Theory (CRT), and in the ideology that inspired this movement. For those unfamiliar with CRT, it is the idea that American law, society, and institutions are inherently racist. Whites are born racist because of the cultural domination by White people in furthering their own economic and political power at the expense of “people of color.”
After I left China for America at the age of 23, arriving in Austin with nothing more than a suitcase, I discovered Texas to be filled with the kindest and most generous people I have ever encountered. There I was, a stranger in a strange land, being invited into American homes and offered help. Now, 33 years later, I am living the American Dream. This is not something one would expect to happen to a non-White, non-English speaking foreigner in a country that is “systemically racist.” My experience is certainly not unique. Many people of color agree with me that America has made huge progress since the Civil Rights Movement.
While CRT and Maoism are not identical ideologies, they share five features in common. The first is the development of a quasi-religious following of zealous youth devoted to unrestrained destruction of what is old to advance that which is new. Whereas Mao called for traditional Chinese culture to be destroyed, CRT calls for “dismantling systems of oppression,” which, like Mao’s definition of “the old,” is subjectively dependent on what they define as oppressive. The second feature is that both ideologies reduce complex problems to the classical Marxist dichotomy: society is constituted of those who “oppress” and those who are oppressed. CRT divides society into oppressor class (White) and oppressed class (people of color). Third, the processes in CRT training are similar to those in Struggle Sessions: writing self-criticizing letters, apologizing for being born White, public shaming, instilling guilt and hatred. Fourth, both ideologies are taught to school-age children without parental consent. The students are made to feel ashamed and guilty about their family history going back generations. Children are taught and trained to be “social justice warriors” by advocating for racial equity, which is about wealth redistribution. Fifth, the chaos, violence, identity politics and social division conjured up by both ideologies open the way for political factions to systematically divide and conquer until usurpation of the existing political system is one check-mate away.
I genuinely believed that the spirit of American individualism would resist the Siren’s song of Marxism that I left behind. I was naïve. It once again returns under a different name — as it always does — and now threatens to poison America, my refuge. This time, however, I have nowhere to run. I plead with you, learn from this immigrant’s story and the lessons of history — fight back.