What caused multiculturalism?

A correspondent, Rusty Mason of Sugar Land, Texas, writes that he would like to know “from where multiculturalism, in its present form, orginated, and who is driving it. It is too uniform across the Globe to be a random movement.”

Here is my reply:

Good questions.

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.

On your global question, I don’t think you have to think of it as something driven by some secret force. It is a civilization-wide force. It is basically the method by which the white societies define themselves out of existence. Think of it this way. The mission of the left has always been to destroy Western civilization. They tried it through Communism, i.e., by the equalization of all property, and that failed. So now they’re doing it through the equalization of all cultures. But in my view (and this has been central to my analysis of multiculturalism from the start—I will soon be republishing at VFR my articles on multiculturalism and immigration from National Review in the early ’90s), it is not at bottom at leftist movement. Rather it is a mainstream response by the society to the massive increase of racial diversity. As I said before, we let others in on the basis of equality and sameness. But they turn out not to be equal and the same, but very different and unequal. So in order to “include” them we remove the standard that makes them seem different, i.e., we define our own culture and country out of existence.

The bottom line is the need of white Westerners not to discriminate against non-whites. As long as whites see non-discrimination as the highest moral principle, they must continue to seek to destroy their own cultures via “inclusion.” Multiculturalism is the method of white Western suicide. Therefore merely attacking the left will not defeat multiculturalism. Multiculturalism can only be defeated by the peoples of the West re-discovering their historic national identities.

(The exchange continues in “What causes multiculturalism, part 2.”)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 15, 2004 11:45 AM | Send

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