Racist multiculturalism

By Patrick Boyle

Diversity. Cultural imperialism. Multiculturalism. These are terms we all know and love to throw around, but what do they really mean? In recent years, Western nations have embraced the idea of multiculturalism, which purports that distinct ethnic groups contribute to the diverse mosaics that make up our societies.

Many world leaders see this concept as a convenient and diplomatic way of resolving the age-old racism issue, but with the advent of globalization, certain members of the academic community have begun to question its legitimacy. Are governments using multiculturalism and other apparently benign methods as a thinly veiled tool to disseminate racism?

"Modern governments have adopted multiculturalism as a way to profit from cultural diversity," said Dr. John Gabriel, an internationally renowned scholar of Race and Ethnicity. "In the course of this manipulation, interested parties have found a convenient and socially acceptable way to use a form of rhetoric that disguises racial segregation. This is evident in the formation of race-specific communities like ‘Little Italy’ or ‘China Town’ in urban centres. These facades disguise the attempts of civic governments to relegate non-white communities to contained areas."

Dr. Gabriel–who spoke to University of Calgary Faculty and Students on Tue., Sept. 10 as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series–co-authored Race and Power, a textbook billed by its publisher as the quint-essential resource on race and ethnicity for the twenty-first Century. His work at London Guildhall University, where he heads the Department of Sociology and Applied Psychology, focuses predominantly on the study of how so-called "white fear" has been re-ignited by the advent of globalization.

According to Gabriel, multiculturalism is not the only means used by Western powers to allay white fear.

"Another phenomenon that has arisen recently is the racialization of space," said Gabriel. "This manifestation of white fear results from the proximity of the rich to the racialized poor. The most noticeable consequence is the rise of gated communities that attract white flight and allow for the exclusion of ‘undesirables.’ Furthermore, this behaviour is not confined to residential white communities: walled office complexes, private clubs, and private roadways are all products of the same mentality of enclosure."

During the lecture Dr. Gabriel noted that governing bodies in European Union countries and other Western nations are extremely concerned with the negative cultural effects of large population influxes from non-white nations. On the other hand, the persistent cultural imperialism of the United States in the same countries goes largely unnoticed.

"We [Western Europeans] eat our Big Macs, drink our Cokes, and watch our Disney movies; meanwhile, the government worries about the detrimental impact of Asian or African immigration," exclaimed Gabriel in a facetious tone. "The USA is eroding our culture, but threats by minority groups are far more recognized."

The issue of racism is not going away any time soon. Whether or not Gabriel’s theories are correct, it is likely that we would all benefit from a second look at some of the basic concepts, like multiculturalism, that we tend to take for granted.

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