This is such a relevant essay to what I’m re-experiencing, moving back into a city. Not just any city, but THE city. Driving through the boroughs of New York is like crossing invisible borders. Going from one street to the next, it’s no surprise to see a sudden shift in ethnic composition. For example, we were driving in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, driving eastwards. You would see Latinos, Blacks then suddenly Orthodox Jewish men dressed in traditional black clothes. It’s something that I’ve been used to for most of my life. Even beyond cities, in different countries, and even countries in such close proximity like Canada and the US, the difference in the reception of diversity and multiculturalism is quite vast. This has a lot to do with the different policies each nation decides to implement. The institutionalization of diversity which trails behind the “lived experience” which aims to accommodate the cultural and economic differences has come a long way, but there are still many flaws.
The most interest region to look out for is Europe, which has recently experienced a manifestation of what Americans call “terrorism.” With a decreasing birth rate hanging below the replacement rate, the cluster of socialist countries will not be able to sustain the old age pensions with its aging population, without a change in their immigration policies esp. for migrant workers.
There are many myths, especially the ones in this post, which fuel more hatred towards the minorities. This hatred is more pronounced during economic downturns such as the one we’re experiencing, as more people are unemployed and disgruntled. In this situation, minorities and new immigrants are easy scapegoats to blame. There is hope, however, seeing that there have been surprisingly a historical trend toward more openness (i.e. France since the revolution vs. the film, Haîne), anthropologically speaking.
I gave the Milton K Wong lecture in Vancouver on Sunday. I very much enjoyed the event- it was a stunning venue, a superb audience and a good discussion of the issues. My thanks to the Laurier Institution, University of British Columbia and CBC for inviting me. Entitled ‘What is Wrong with Multiculturalism? A European Perpective’, the lecture pulled together many of the themes about immigration, identity, diversity and multiculturalism of which I have been talking and writing recently. It was a long talk, so I am splitting the transcript into two. Here is the first part; I will publish the second part later this week. It will be broadcast in full on 22 June on the CBC’s Ideas strand.
It is somewhat alarming to be asked to present the European perspective on multiculturalism. There is no such beast. Especially when compared to the Canadian discussion, opinion in Europe is highly polarised…
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