Introduction to Multiculturalism

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Introduction to Multiculturalism

Immigration involves not only the movement of peoples, but also the movement of cultures. Immigrants carry with them the foundations of their cultural identity: language, food, religion, traditions, social patterns, leisure activities, and family structures. The cultural patterns of an immigrant's indigenous community or country of origin can sometimes conflict with social customs and laws of their new county. In turn, social attitudes and cultural tolerance of the destination country influence the immigrant's dilemma of how and to what degree they desire to assimilate.

Multiculturalism is the acceptance of a number of cultures within a multiethnic society. Multiculturalism as officially adopted public policy is controversial. Those who favor a policy of multiculturalism assert that it promotes respect for individual differences, fosters diversity, and promotes beneficial cultural evolution. Many supporters claim it promotes tolerance and equality by not requiring individuals to fully assimilate or integrate into the dominant or traditional culture of their surroundings. Opponents charge that multicultural policy undermines social cohesiveness and encourages individual interests over common interests. Some critics claim it exacerbates social tensions over individual differences; some claim it destroys a society's traditional majority culture.

This chapter includes sources on both sides of the political debate over multiculturalism as a viable public policy. Featured are the Canadian Multicultural Act and the Australian national policy on multiculturalism. In contrast, "Berlusconi Warns Against Multiculturalism" presents opposing opinions to the adoption of national multicultural policy.

In the United States, the social theory of the "melting-pot" remains in tension with the more recent "salad-bowl" theory. Whereas the melting pot required amalgamation of diverse elements into an evolving but cohesive whole, the salad bowl permits individuals to retain their cultural identity within the whole—like the ingredients in a salad.

Without a comprehensive national policy, many multicultural programs in the United States are left to individual states. National multicultural initiatives have included the adoption of Black History and Asian-American history months. Within this chapter, the lingering debate over bilingual education best represents the overarching debate over multicultural policy in the United States. Several sources discuss the promotion and effectiveness of bilingual education, as well as attempts by states to ban the practice.

Finally, multiculturalism can refer to a cultural phenomenon divorced from politics. Caribbean-influenced rhythms and Spanish-language pop songs have achieved mainstream radio popularity. Fusion food adopts cooking styles and ingredients of diverse ethnic traditions. The fruits of multiculturalism and immigration are seen in everyday life. From ethnic enclaves in urban areas to ethnic foods in grocery stores, people experience the fusion of different cultures.

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Introduction to Multiculturalism

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Introduction to Multiculturalism