As I was struggling with getting my Texafornia piece out of 'draft', I started talking about multiculturalism over the matter of integration vs assimilation. I think that multiculturalism offers real answers but most people don't understand what a deep multicultural ethos involves. I think far too often we get bogged down in petty differences and toss the baby out with the bathwater.
I'd like to cite a series of books here too while I'm at it to help folks get an idea where I'm coming from.
- We're All Multiculturalists Now, by Nathan Glazer
- Cultural Literacy, E. D. Hirsch Jr.
- The Closing of the American Mind - Allan Bloom
- Multicultural Literacy, Greywolf Annual
- Japanese By Spring - Ishmael Reed
Class Three - PC
The principles of multiculturalism are well suited to resolving issues but we suffer from a surfeit of dialog about the laziest version, political correctness. PC is nothing more than the "don't ask don't tell" version of multiculturalism, it is the false pretense that everything is relative and that we can all enjoy each other's cultures with a Coke and a smile. So long as we don't offend, we can 'all get along' and society is better off. But PC demands no real understanding nor even an effort.
Class Two - Diversity & Pluralism
Diversity is one step up from PC and makes pefect sense. However it is misaplied as a principle when it's really just a strategy. The value of diversity is that it stands as an indicator of a willingness to make the effort to be inclusive. The best of diversity delivers a kind of robustness, it fortifies an institution by giving disparate groups an interest in its sucess. But this need be done purposefully with the intention of maintaining that robustness without losing links.
Pluralism is not a consequence of diversity, rather I think it the proper result of a non-chauvanistic secularism in a democratic society. You can have a healthy pluralism without the attempted mutual understanding of diversity. I think they reinforce each other but that they are not the same.
Class One - Diplomacy
A proper multiculturalism is probably best described as a 'panglossos'. It involves a non-trivial understanding of history and language of the peoples of different cultures and traditions. It is diplomatic but not necessarily integrative. It is the most difficult to achieve, of course, because bridging such gaps are very difficult. Imagine giving up the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' as the character portrayed by Richard Gere in 'Red Corner'. Respecting alien systems of governance, wedding and burial traditions, oral and written history etc are tremendous undertakings.
From the (google) Archives - January 1995
this is foolish alarmism. multiculturalism is not cultural relativism, nor
is it separatism, nor is it necessarily anti-nationalistic. it is simply
the corrective medicine that the educated classes of americans require
such that they are not 'ugly americans'.
generally speaking, the upper classes of americans in comparison with
their european and south american counterparts are more xenophobic, racist
and unaware of world history and literature. multiculturalism seeks to
address this but primarily by offering the context of world history and
literature. the natural consequence of this in a nation of immigrants is
*recognition* of the heritage and backgrounds of these immigrants. it is
certainly expected and hoped that this broader background will provide
anti-racist and anti-xenophobic forces which are ultimatly civilizing. but
multiculturalism doesn't confer status. it merely offers the opportunity
for educated americans to improve their worldview.
multiculturalism, however has political overtones and now political
enemies. since the conservative right has decided to overstep its bounds
and attempt to influence college curricula and progressives have reacted,
multiculturalism will never again be the civilizing academic initiative it
began as. the middle class types and hangers-on to white male rage which
is all the new vogue in cyberspace are those fueling the political force
of this issue. however this passion is far too blunt to precicesly
identify errors in multiculturalism as originally conceived and thus have
tended to villify all liberalism. enemies of liberalism are easily found.
although it has been said many times, it bears repeating. multiculturalism
has no politics outside of academic ethics and the opinions of loud
undergraduates. 'political correctness', however, since it finds an enemy
in the powerful republican right must ultimately become something
fungible. but anyone who searches will find few if any multicultural grass
roots political organizations which are not simply reactionary to bloom's
it must be said that my introduction to the debate began with the greywolf
annual. #5 i beleive it was. the title was multicultural literacy,
something of an answer book to bloom's 'cultural literacy'. quite frankly,
all recognized that america was getting dumber. bloom said every educated
american should know set A. the editors and authors of the greywolf annual
said, why stop there? they should know A & B, becuase to only know A
without the context of B is to place arbitrary limits on knowledge. the
argument has devolved from that point in 1987.