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Multiculturalism is the phenomenon of multiple groups of cultures existing within one society, largely due to the arrival of immigrant communities, or the acceptance and advocacy of this phenomenon. Supporters of multiculturalism claim that different traditions and cultures can enrich society; however, the concept also has its critics, to the point where the term "multiculturalism" may well be used more by critics than by supporters. It could, indeed, be classified as a snarl word or a buzzword, depending on the audience.
Right-wingers sometimes call multiculturalism cultural suicide or national suicide.
Multiculturalism occurs naturally when a society is willing to accept the culture of immigrants (with, ideally, immigrants also willing to accept the culture of the land to which they have come). A distinction should be drawn between multiculturalism that occurs simply due to the absence of a single enforced culture, and multiculturalism which is endorsed and actively encouraged by the government; this is often referred to as state multiculturalism.
Kenan Malik states that "The experience of living in a society transformed by mass immigration, a society that is less insular, more vibrant and more cosmopolitan, is positive" but contrasts this with the political process of multiculturalism, which "describes a set of policies, the aim of which is to manage diversity by putting people into ethnic boxes, defining individual needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people are put, and using those boxes to shape public policy."
In reality, there is a spectrum between a monoculture where everyone is exactly the same, and the negative stereotype of multiculturalism where a society is totally divided into separate ethnic communities who never associate. In any actual society, people will mix and associate with those of other races/cultures, while also keeping some kind of social or cultural identity (e.g. based on religion, ethnic group, local area, sport team, gang affiliation, goth/punk/skin/emo/etc subculture...). Complaints about multiculturalism usually arise when people encounter members of another subgroup but feel they are mixing too little; complaints about forced assimilation when people are forced to associate and compromise too much.
An interview of Barbara Spectre with Israeli IBA News has gained wide attention among far right websites, and among writers such as Lars Holger Holm (who has a rather positive review on Metapedia). The interview has been widely dispersed through YouTube and other social media, in which Spectre says:
“”Europe has not yet learned how to be multicultural. And I think we are going to be part of the throes of that transformation, which must take place. Europe is not going to be the monolithic societies that they once were in the last century. Jews are going to be at the center of that. It's a huge transformation for Europe to make. They are now going into a multicultural mode, and Jews will be resented because of our leading role. But without that leading role, and without that transformation, Europe will not survive.
Critics claim that multiculturalism promotes a tolerance of
new ideas moral relativism and results in a loss of national identity. Unfortunately multiculturalism can sometimes lead to the development of souring subcultures: see, for example, the bigotry promoted at the East London Mosque.
There is a central paradox in multiculturalism in that it is itself a cultural value, and one particular to Western culture; not all cultures are tolerant of other cultures, and so insisting on them respecting other cultures would perhaps not be respecting them.
“”Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We've failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values. So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don't want to, is a case in point. This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology. Now for sure, they don't turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see – and what we see in so many European countries – is a process of radicalisation.
He concluded that Britain "should encourage meaningful and active participation in society, by shifting the balance of power away from the state and towards the people [and] also help build stronger pride in local identity, so people feel free to say, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am Christian, but I am also a Londoner or a Berliner too.'"
Johann Hari has argued that multiculturalism is too reductive ("Multiculturalism patronisingly treats immigrants as homogenous blocks — when in fact they are as diffuse and dissenting as the rest of us. Would anybody lump me in with Richard Littlejohn and Nick Griffin as part of a 'white community'?") and can lead to oppression, as in the case of misogynistic Sharia courts. He also argues against "the old whiter-than-white monoculturalism [whereby] if people are going to live together, they need to look and feel similar, and have a tightly prescribed shared identity." Instead, he calls for what he terms simply liberalism: "A liberal society allows an individual to do whatever he or she wants, provided it doesn't harm other people. You can choose to wear PVC hotpants or a veil. You can choose to spend all day praying, or all day mocking people who pray. Where a multiculturalist prizes the rights of religious groups, a liberal favours the rights of the individual."
Multiculturalism is also commonly used as a snarl word by the Religious Right and nationalist cranks of various stripes. It often serves the purpose of being a catch-all term for civil rights, Affirmative Action, feminism, gay rights, separation of church and state, and any other policy that doesn't promote the interests of straight white Christian men.
Now here's the irony
While Canada was the original (and arguably, most successful) nation to introduce state multiculturalism as a platform in the 1970s thanks to liberals and social democrats; the idea was devised long before by Progressive Conservatives, including a senator named Paul Yuzyk.
And Cameron's comment, in particular, on the ability to keep one's cultural background while still being "English," sounds strikingly similar to what apparently was the intention of multiculturalism in the first place, as explained by former Scottish Unionist politician and Canadian Governor General John Buchan:
“”[Ethnic groups] should retain their individuality and each make its contribution to the national character... the strongest nations are those that are made up of different racial elements.
So it may appear that the rest of the world took the term off the shelves without realizing what it actually meant. Great job everyone!
Multiculturalism has led some to tolerate or advocate various forms of woo, most often some form of pseudohistory concerning a minority group or crank anthropological ideas. These ideas are sometimes, ironically, based on repackaged racial stereotypes and peddled to ignorant but otherwise well-meaning white moonbats looking to "discover the rich ethnic heritage" of some group. This has also in many cases led to what is termed in anti-racist circles as "cultural appropriation" that often comes across as patronizing, even racist itself. Although, it is worth remembering that the political theory of multiculturalism in no way endorses doing this and in many ways could be seen as opposing the advocation of these ideas.
- Afrocentrism, which posits that Egypt was ruled by a black race and Greco-Roman civilization was descended from this region. If you say otherwise, you are obviously employing a "flawed" Eurocentric methodology instead of the correct Afrocentric methodology. Also, the sometimes overlapping melanin theory, which claims melanin confers some kind of biological superiority.
- Native American woo, such as the "plastic shamans".
- New Age and nature woo will sometimes incorporate these ideas.
- Noble savage stereotypes.
- Pseudosciences of non-white cultures being labeled as "local knowledge" or "other ways of knowing."
- The idea of "Eastern knowledge" and its superiority to "Western knowledge." This is especially popular in alternative medicine, in which "Eastern medicine," such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, is touted as more "natural" than "Western medicine." Expect the words "holistic" and "intuitive" to be used a lot. See also Deepak Chopra.
- Pope, Charles, Msgr. (May 15, 2011). "Is Multiculturalism Just Another Form of Moral Relativism?" Archdiocese of Washington.
- Kenan Malik (17 March 2010). "Multiculturalism undermines diversity".
- Occidental Observer (23 December 2010). "Kevin MacDonald: Jews play a "leading role" in promoting multiculturalism in Europe".
- Lars Holger Holm (9 March 2015). Hiding in Broad Daylight: An Analysis of the Political Radicalisation and Commercialisation of Artistic Modernism. Arktos. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-910524-29-9.
- See also Anders Behring Breivik
- See the Wikipedia article on John Buchan.