Three Classes of Multiculturalism

I will with this post start widening the argument to the full extent of the project: Weeds as metaphore for human migration.

The following article is from Michael David Cobb Bowen, an interesting and very prolific blogger.


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.

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