Anything wrong with Multiculturalism?

When I went to school in Canada, I hear other Canadians saying that they differ from the “melting pot” Americans by having a “multicultural” society. I only hear the advantages of multiculturalism, but what are the disadvantages? I hear some conservative Americans despise this term.

Opposition that you will hear is of two (at least) different flavors.

The first critique would hold that, in practice, any system glorifying “multiculturalism” will usually turn out to do so in a way that exaggerates the importance and worthiness of “minority” contributions and denigrates the legitimacy or significance of the mainstream group(s).

The second critique is that “multiculturalism” encourages tribalism and separatist thinking – e.g., immigrants of past generations assumilated successfully because no one told them that it was just as valid to speak Italian or German in school as English (rather, the contrary), but today’s insistence on the separate recognition and emphasis on each constituent tribe precludes unification/assimilation.

This is the great salad bowl vs. melting pot debate. First thing we have to do is recognize that a melting pot is a form of multiculturalism. When enough immigrants melt into the pot the flavor of the pot itself changes. Second, you can find both the salad bowl and the melting pot here in the United States. We have our little salad bowls like Little China, Tokyo, Odessa, and Saigon just like Canada, but typically immigrants will melt after a generation or two.

Can multiculturalism (salad bowl) be taken to far? Sure. A culture requires cohesiveness in order to survive. If you have groups of people with wildly differing values you’re going to have conflict that needs to be resolved and each culture might have equally different ways to resolve said culture.


I agree.

Multiculturalism breeds balkanization and conflict even within people of the same race. Look at the problems that Canada has had with Quebec. Humans seem to have an innate tendency to establish to view outside groups as sources of conflict. The U.S. would not be what it is today without the semi-forced assimilation of earlier immigrant groups. The small differences that exist between groups are still sources of conflict (Irish and Italians in Boston for example). If a country’s goal is to promote unity and minimize group conflict within its borders then multiculturalism should be suppressed. Different goals may mean that multiculturalism is neutral or even desirable.

The irony in this situation, of course, is that the Quebec government created a forced simulation into the French language culture of all new immigrants. In turn, the “flavouring” added by new immigrants to the French society serves to dilute la langue pure, or rather the Quebecois culture.

They’d have been better off with a segregationist multi-cultural approach.

I don’t think anyone wants to preserve a “pure” traditional Québec culture, with no input from other cultures. From my own experience, most Quebecers (and especially the younger ones, like me) feel great pride in living in a multicultural society where people from around the world come, keep a large part of their culture, but adopt French as a common language (while also keeping their native language, if they want). The main purpose of, for example, laws requiring immigrants to send their children to French language schools was to help them integrate in the majority culture, while not necessarily losing their own culture. I’m not entirely in favour of our language laws, but I do realise that without them, many immigrants (and some francophones too) would only learn English (it is, after all, the world’s main business language), assimilate into the English Québec culture, and possibly remain isolated from the majority. Would that really be worse? I can’t really tell, but I certainly see the purpose of our laws.

Or did I misunderstand your argument?

One of the assumptions of multiculturalism is that all cultures have equal value. Western civilization is not superior to X. While it may make some people feel better about themselves, I think the idea is ridiculous. There is a wide spectrum of cultures, and some are better, for some definition of better, than others.

I don’t think that’s the assumption. I think that multiculturalism assumes that all cultures have value, not that they are all as valuable as each other. If the people in some culture prevent women from leaving their house at all times and give them no political rights, but at the same time cook really wonderful meals, it is expected that if people from this culture come to a Western country (for example), they will have to understand and accept that here, women cannot be legally prevented from having the same rights as men. On the other hand, they can certainly add to the culture of their new country with their fantastic cookery.

I’ve never thought of Quebec as a success story.

In my experience, those who lay claim to multiculturalism were more interested in maintaining a separate cultural identity (an island unto themselves). I would never be included as a member.

To me, the melting pot concept is something that becomes more relevant as time progresses and prejudices fade. My country is the culmination of many cultures and as such we are greater than the sum of those unique qualities. That’s why I’ve always been a proponent of a single language. Communication is the conduit that allows us to build on what each group brings to the table.

Well we were taught in my Canadian schools why America likes a melting pot. America was started so that it could be new and fresh politicallly, so if anyone came there, they needed to give up their old ideas about how a country should be and adopt a new set of values. By the time Canada started to teach about melting pots, we were already secure in our identity and didn’t need to worry that people would come here and try to change the system. By then, you could say that people who come here already share the values that matter and it’s a given that they won’t declare a city of New Whatever and then try to separate. But back in the melting pot days, a thing like that could happen.

We were also taught that the melting pot isn’t meant to make people give up their culture, only political ideals that might be messed up and nothing to do with a free country.

We were also taught that Canada is a “mosaic” meaning that people should preserve their culture as much as they like but not segregate. We are meant to be sharing the best of the cultures. And that by the 1980s, there was no real difference between a melting pot and a mosaic unless you count people who think melting pot means everyone must trade their turban for a baseball cap, but that those people don’t count because they don’t really understand what a melting pot is supposed to be. In a multicultural society like Canada you still ask that everyone melt in the sense that they will adopt the political system and follow the laws of Canada, so we are still melting on that level. So it’s really the same.

By the way, in a multicultural system, “culture” does not mean a political system that does things like not let women leave the house. A culture might say that it is better for a woman to do this than to do that, and that is true in every culture. Having an oppressive political regime is not a culture. That’s why a multicultural place like Canada is not really different from a melting pot. The laws of a country may reflect the culture, or enforce ideas that the culture shares, but they are not the culture.

The cultures are supposed to be equal. If you are a woman who does not think it’s right to leave the house or be politically active, then in Canada we are all supposed to respect that choice and tolerate it even if we don’t agree. That’s why we had a big thing about ceremonial daggars before. Can people wear a big honking knife around when nobody else is allowed if it’s cultural? We said yes, as long as they don’t use it for stabbing.

So you have multiculturalism but you still keep your ethnocentric values. Sounds reasonable, you can have your cake and eat it to.


Here in Canada I was taught that our ‘cultural mosaic’ was unquestionably superior to the American ‘melting pot’. I think that’s a load of hogwash.

Multiculturalism is fine in the sense that we should all strive to understand and coexist with other cultures, and allow the freedom of immigrants to maintain their cultural heritage within the law. Where it goes horribly wrong is when it treats all cultures as equal, morally the same, and when it downplays the predominant culture of our country as being just one valid culture among many. I firmly believe that if you want to move to Canada you should follow Canadian law, you should be proud to be Canadian, and your child should be educated in English and/or French. If you don’t like the way we live, don’t want to learn our language, and don’t like our customs, don’t move here. Countries that forfeit their essence to the god of multiculturalism are doomed.

Just look what’s happening in Europe now. Different ethnic communities exist in Denmark, France, Germany, and other countries, and are not even remotely assimilated. German authorities look the other way when Muslims engage in honor killings of their daughters. French police won’t even enter some Muslim areas because they don’t consider it safe for non-Muslims. Politicians and cultural leaders in the Netherlands are assassinated because they offend Islam. The result is dissatisfaction and a continent that is beginning to fracture along sectarian lines. Bad news.

And now Canada is set to allow Sharia law to be practiced in this country. “Voluntarily”, of course, but one wonders just how voluntary the choice of a young woman in a Muslim household really is. To me, this is a major step backwards. If you want to move to Canada, you should accept Canadian law. We are a country that separates religion and law. If you don’t like it, don’t come here. End of story.

You know, the U.S. is a classic ‘melting pot’, but that hasn’t stopped Chinese, Italian, German, Jewish and Muslim communities from maintaining their own cultural identities. But they are expected to be Americans first and foremost. And that’s the way it should be.

While not strictly part of “multiculturalism”, the way it is practised now in Canada involves tax dollars going to support parochial cultural groups. In other words, not only is multiculturalism supported philosophically by the Government, it is supported financially as well. And that gets my hackles up. Why should I pay to support the perpetuation of some vested cultural interest?

If someone has to be locked in the house, they don’t share the value. Otherwise they’d stay in by their own free will. To want to be free is not a rejection of any culture. Nobody values being forced to do something. If it was their value, they would do it willingly. That’s what values are. There is no ethnicity that values being locked up.

That’s exactly how I feel. My Grandmother could hardly speak English (Italian immigrant) but she insisted her 8 kids speak it well. There was no community expectation of The US bending to their desires. I know what my background is but it never occurred to me to think of myself as anything but American. My Grandmother “melted in” and here I am, taxpayer emirates.

I hope Canada takes a step back from the Sharia law idea. Hate to lose a good neighbor to a judicial system run-amuk.

The problem with the traditional melting pot metaphor is that too often it means you better melt in to one of us.

For example, California was a Spanish speaking state long before it was an English speaking one. Nearly all of our towns are named after Spanish words. We have groups of people who have been speaking Spanish continually since before this was American territory. And yet instead of acknowledging that Spanish is one of the native languages of California, we keep having these “why don’t those darn Mexicans have some respect and stop speaking that gibberish” debates.

Now, I do belive in assimilation. I grew up in an area where people from every country in the world lived, worked and played together. And I currently live in a place where people from every country in the world pretty much keep their distance from each other. I think the first one was a lot better.

But only if we don’t lose anything in the process. We all benefit more from a town with a pho joint, a taqueria and a diner as opposed to a town with three diners. The more we know and are comfortable with other cultures, the more savvy we will become and the more we can compete in a globalized world. I think it is possible for people to interact with, be an active part of, and contribute to American culture without losing their own culture as well.

There is also a lot to say about the sense of “rootlessness” in mainstream American culture. There is a reason why people who are 1/4324 Scottish are suddenly donning kilts and buying up replications of “their” clan tartan. A part of American culture channels our sense of time and placelessness in to consumption, and I think that is of debatable value.

I disagree. Cultures are dynamic, not static, even when they are isolated. Even if you aren’t exposed to any other cultures, your culture is not the same as your great-grandmother’s because things are constantly shifting. Having other influences around accelerates that process because you see other possibilites.

I teach at one of the most diverse high schools in Texas, and I see immigrants moving away from their “native” cultures and sythesizing a new culture – a personal mix of their parent’s culture and of the many cultures around them. And I think that’s a good thing.

If nothing else, if you mix people of different cultures, your gonna get babies. And you can’t have a household with two distinct cultures: instead you get a collage of both cultures, cobbled together out of both people’s priorites about what really matters to them.

What I see in a really diverse enviroment is people chosing their culture, not going with the default. They look around them and see that they have actual options, which is something people in monocultures have a great deal of diffuculty in doing, and they pick what makes sense to them. But in doing so, they live lives that are different than their grandparents, or anyone else’s grandparents. A new culture is created, and I think that’s ok.

In other words, soon we don’t have a “pho joint, a taqueria and a diner”, we have a diner with noodles and tacos on the menu, a pho joint that serves serves burgers, and a taqueria that makes curry tacos.

And it’s sad in some ways that cultures change and we don’t live the same life as our grandparents. One of my students is a Bosnian Muslim. She’s synthesized here own culture, and I am proud of her. But she mourns that her (hypothetical) children will never understand her mother–they might understand Bosnian, but they won’t understand the way her mom thinks. But overall, that’s a price worth paying for the benefits of dynamic cultural development afforded by true diversity.

Why is that a problem? If I move to Germany I’m going to adapt to the language and culture as best I can to avoid conflict with the natives. Undoubtably I’ll still keep a lot of my core values and if there are enough people like me I might even have an influence on German culture just as they influenced the United States.

Because California hasn’t been a part of Mexico for over 150 years and most people in the U.S. speak English as a first language. I’m not saying it’s right but that’s why.

I don’t think it’s possible to do that over generations without isolating yourself from mainstream society. Change comes to everyone as new ideas are adopted and old ones are abandoned.

The only people I know who wear kilts are Ren Faire geeks. I’m not really sure it has anything to do with being Scottish though.


Everyone in Canada (weather they are a citizen or not) is required to follow Candian Law.

Are you suggesting some sort of loyalty test? I have a question for you: Are YOU " proud to be Canadian"? Can I be your judge? Have you voiced support for such anti-Canadian vaules like: The break up of Canada through Quebec or Western separtism, Privatiation of the CBC, Voting against the Liberal (The one true Canadian Party) Party All hail the Libreals.

If I Home-School my kid in my native language of Inuit/German/Arabic/Klingon who are you to say otherwise. Are you some sort of commie Big-brother, government supporter. I bet you are…

What if you’re a complete slob!

Whose language is our’s? MicMac

Of course I hate Customs. Have you ever tried to order something from an American company over the Internet?

Can you stop me?I didn’t think so.

My country’s essence includes the god of multiculturalism. You move out.

So, would either of you care to tell us which culters are better, which are worse, and how we should go about treating them unequally? More to the point, should immigration be based on the applicant’s “culture?”