Multiculturalism – 1

What is Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is a situation in which all the different cultural or racial groups in a society have equal rights and opportunities, and none is ignored or regarded as unimportant.

Multiculturalism in countries

Why it is that only the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the nations of Europe are required to be “multicultural”? Why those nations specifically? Why not, for example, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, or Guatemala? None of those nations, nor most of the world’s nations have a multicultural imperative, where that the host culture is smothered with cultures from all over the world and success at the endeavor is gauged by how heavily the host culture is impacted, if not erased entirely.

It seems Africa for Africans, Asian for Asians, Latin America for Latinos but North America, Australia, NZ and Europe is for Everyone.

In Canada it began back in the early ’70s, initially in response to the re-working of Canada as a bi-cultural, Anglo/Franco country. They had an official Multicultural policy (even a government department devoted to multiculturalism) almost two decades before the word “multiculturalism” was even heard in the United States. To my knowledge, the word multiculturalism was not widely used in the U.S. until the end of the 1980s.

In the United States it began as a movement within the education world, it was a sort of organic outgrowth of the Sixties. Institutionally, I could point to things like the Portland Plan from about 20 years ago (you could probably find information on this in the Web), but logically it came from the breakdown of and the denial of the legitimacy of the common culture, particularly with reference to the problems of blacks. The Civil Rights movement was based on the idea that everyone is equal, all you have to do is drop discrimination. But when they got rid of the discrimination, they found to their distress that blacks on average were still way behind whites in all kinds of ways. How to deal with that fact without giving up the idea of equality? By adopting the idea of cultural equality: all cultures are different and yet equal, and the idea of a common culture is oppressive because it turns one of these “equal” cultures into the dominant culture and forces its standards on the other cultures.

Affirmative action and group rights also had a lot to do with it. Obviously we had group rights going back to the Sixties and early Seventies. You could see multiculturalism as an application of the group rights idea to the area of curriculum and culture.

On top of all that, the increasing number of conspicuously different non-European immigrants in America, combined with the disappearance of the authority and legitimacy of our once national culture, made the idea of “diversity” the new way of describing America. It was analogous to, and an extension of, what had happened earlier with blacks. Since these millions of new people so obviously did not fit within the historic American identity, the way to make them seem to fit into America was to redefine America itself, as no longer a country with a particular culture, but as a country consisting of a collection of equal cultures. Once you define America as “multicultural,” then everybody fits and the problem of assimilation goes away.

Multicultural ideologies and policies vary widely,ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group to which they belong.

Multiculturalism that promotes maintaining the distinctiveness of multiple cultures is often contrasted to other settlement policies such as social integration, cultural assimilation and racial segregation. Multiculturalism has been described as a “salad bowl” and “cultural mosaic”.