Friday, October 16, 2015

Multiculturalism and the Death of the Melting Pot

Give me your tired, your poor, your...angry

The melting pot, that uniquely American concept, has met its match.
It was a nice run. The melting pot was probably responsible for elevating more people out of poverty than any societal construct before or since, anywhere in the world.

The formula was simple. Immigrants would come to the U.S., find work, and with the dream that the next generation might live a better life, assimilate. Work hard. Join civic organizations. Emphasize English around the home. Figure out the rules to baseball and who Joe DiMaggio was. Root for him, even.

Once, it was important to know who this was

A handful of years later, the next generation was graduating from college, witnessed by teary-eyed parents who perhaps still spoke halting English.

There were bumps. The first generation or two often dealt with some cultural hostility, but it passed. Remember the "shanty" Irish? Nor do most people. Perhaps it's because no one insisted on being called "Irish-American." No one was throwing their cultural heritages overboard, mind you, but they came to America for something better, and becoming "American" was a dream, not a compromise. And it required an extraordinary work ethic and dedication in pursuing new-found opportunities and freedoms unavailable in their home countries. 

Immigrants, and America, were better for it.

And now, in an astonishingly short period of time, the idea of the melting pot has been dismantled by the rising tide of progessivism. It isn't simply that the government's dissipative approach to welfare benefits has undermined the work ethic, it's more than that - it's cultural. In fact, it has a rather pleasant name: multiculturalism.

The Free Dictionary defines multiculturalism thus:

Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

So what's wrong with that? A lot, as it turns out, because it emphasizes our differences rather than those things that bring us together. It's supposed to be a celebratory thing, but in reality it breeds Balkanization, resentment, and class envy. This isn't an issue confined to our immigrant community, either.

At a well-known boarding school (that my son attended), they employ a full time "diversity coordinator." As best I can tell, her job is to get everybody mad at one another, and in particular at the prevailing culture. If you happen to fall into her definition of a protected class, you are marinated in righteous anger, often against the culture of the very school that has welcomed you as a student, probably with a scholarship. If you arrive without anger, it will sure graduate with you.

Did I mention the school pays this woman a salary?

There are benefits, of course, for the protected. For example, as a diversity student no one would risk doing anything or saying anything to you that might be turned on you in the form of a racism charge. Few crimes are taken more seriously, and the mere accusation often puts the burden of proof on the accused. 

Some learn to use it to advantage.

Not long ago, at my old high school a black student brandished a letter that he claimed someone had shoved under his door. It contained the "n" word, of course, and phrases like, "You don't belong here in our world." (First hoax clue: who has said anything like that since maybe the 1950s?)

The school, a bastion of Massachusetts liberalism, went into paroxysms of collective soul searching, with town hall meetings and days off for general anguish. The Massachusetts Attorney General got involved, even though it was completely unclear what laws might have been broken. The aggrieved boy gained rarefied victimhood status, at least until it was discovered he wrote the note himself. He had learned well from the grievance industry how to push the right buttons, he just blew the execution. 

Assimilate into traditionally white boarding school culture? You are a racist for even suggesting it. Check your privilege.

Really, it's a shame. Whatever the perceived benefits may be for being a protected class, it winds up being an island of diminished opportunity, just as it is for immigrants who spurn acculturation.

One of multiculturalism's chief tenets is that all cultures are equally deserving of celebration, even though this is demonstrably untrue, and especially so by the very standards trumpeted by the left. Do I need to list the various deprivations of women in most Islamic nations?

The one culture that multiculturalism doesn't celebrate - indeed, has open contempt for - is our American culture. According to all the appointed and self-appointed diversity counselors out there, America is racist, sexist, homophobic, environmentally foolhardy, etc., etc. Thus, like the kids encouraged to resist embracing a boarding school's history and culture, new immigrants are encouraged to hang on to their old cultures and resist becoming "American."

Examples abound. History books in high schools have rewritten American history into a amalgam of conquest and exploitation. Perhaps the worst example is the trend towards teaching immigrant kids in their native Spanish. I can't think of a more efficient way to keep someone poor than to not give them the gift of English. But that would be culturally insensitive, and we can't have that.

Like I said, it was a nice run.

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