A Requiem for Multiculturalism

Stop the presses!  The British, French and German heads of state agree on something:   Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel have all recently declared multiculturalism a failure.

Like the related dogma of diversity, multiculturalism is so deeply embedded in the lexicon of liberalism that it has become axiomatic. Proponents hold it so dear that the faintest doubt poses an existential threat. 

With the stakes so high, agnostics face sanctimonious wrath:  if you don't believe in multiculturalism there is simply something wrong with you; maybe you're even nuts. While I have reservations I think I'm basically sane, and I sure as heck hope the aforementioned world leaders are operating with a full deck. 

It's important to distinguish between diversity and multiculturalism, which are often lumped together in liberal orthodoxy.  Diversity is inherently good; but multiculturalism too often leads to separation and resentment that foments extremism.  

True diversity goes beyond quotas or controversial agenda-driven calls to promote this group or that.  It's a sincere effort to incorporate diverse skills, to encourage various problem-solving methods and to harness disparate talents towards solving complex problems.  This kind of diversity is indeed axiomatic in a democratic society, standing alongside such precious tenets as freedom of speech, the rule of law and equal rights.

But like a parasite sucking the blood from its host, multiculturalism often latches onto the righteous aims of true diversity.  Indeed, many organizational mission statements cannot separate the two, presenting them as corollaries amidst flowery platitudes about values. But whereas true diversity promotes cohesion, multiculturalism too often divides us. 

Even our governmental leaders are catching wind of this, and some are courageously shunning multicultural social experiments which fray our social fabric. 

In declaring multiculturalism a failure French president Sarkozy recently said "We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him."

If he were alone in this sentiment it might give credence to the multicultural stalwarts who question any critic's rationality.   But when world leaders like Germany's Merkel and Britain's Cameron lead the chorus, there's some prudent judgment behind their criticisms.

They have seen that separate groups on the fringes of society sometimes succumb to demagoguery.   This is why Cameron, a pillar of sobriety, strode bravely amidst an onslaught of liberal recrimination, asserting that state multiculturalism has failed, and that Britain needs to apply "muscular liberalism" against some Muslim groups that promote Islamist extremism. 

Cameron is probably aware of polls, such as one conducted by the Daily Telegraph showing that 32 percent of British Muslims believe that "Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end."

We know about the extremists in "Londonistan," but consider this impertinence from some disaffected lads in Manchester.  In a letter to the national newspaper The Daily Mail, they said: "We British Muslim lads born in England of Pakistani parents ... don't wish to be ‘radicalized' and we would never become terrorists, but the continued use of an anti-Islamic flag increases our sympathy for ... our fellow Muslims who believe direct action is the only way to make our voices heard."

The flag is none other than the St. George's Cross, and it has been flying proudly for many centuries in England and other Western regions that boast St George as their patron saint.  No wonder Cameron is flexing "muscular liberalism" to enhance a sense of shared identity.  In doing so he carefully distinguished between multiculturalism that separates us and diversity that integrates by encouraging people to say "I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Christian, but I am a Londoner... too."

The struggle for integration was at the heart of our civil rights movement; indeed, in the watershed ruling of Brown v. Board of Education  the Supreme Court declared that "Separate Is Not Equal."    Yet, multiculturalism does separate people, inevitably leading to inequality.   

Diversity fosters integration that is one of the cornerstones of our greatness.  Many cultural and ethnic groups have added vibrancy to our great democratic experiment as they have become assimilated in our melting pot.  We are Americans first; we respect our flag; we sing our national anthem proudly; and we're grateful for the bountiful opportunities America bequeaths to those who participate and integrate.

I haven't been committed to an asylum yet, and I say in all my sanity: Diversity yes; integration yes; multiculturalism no!  By Noel S. Williams.