Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Living in a Multicultural World

In class one day, we started discussing the issue of multiculturalism. For those who are new to this term or need to be reminded, one definition I found reports multiculturalism “refers to a belief or policy that endorses the principle of cultural diversity and supports the right of different cultural and ethnic groups to retain distinctive cultural identities.” (1) I believe another definition can be found to mean that multiculturalism is melting and blending of two or more cultures together in order to become multi-cultured. This can be seen with more and more frequency due to an increase in interracial marriages throughout many generations.

The problem we face, as I see it, is the vast gap and difference in these two definitions of one word. On the one hand, we are all trying to respect and support separate and distinctive cultural identities and groups, but on the other, we are attempting to embrace all of them and let a single person embody their multicultural background. Therein lays a catch-22. If we accept the separate and different aspects of each cultural group, how do we accept and then categorize a person that actually fits into more than one of the cultural groups? Does that person lose their identity because instead of having one background they have two? But then if we choose to accept this diverse and multicultural background to be a societal norm, how are we supposed to then understand, recognize and respect each cultural group as individual?

Some issues of multiculturalism can be seen in the book “Dogeaters” by Jessica Hagedorn. Sadly, in this novel, multiculturalism is not embraced as a positive belief and acceptance. Joey Sands was seen as a mutt in society because his father was a black GI and his mother was a Filipino whore. The Filipino culture, as we come to discover in this novel, thrives on the wild ideas and dreams of Hollywood and the esteemed culture of America. It’s sad to notice that within their own culture, they lack respect for themselves and other Filipinos. The only ones to succeed and escape to America are the ones that already look American compared to other Filipinos. This is where a multicultural background comes in handy. If Joey’s father would have been a white GI instead of a black GI, Joey would have been treated differently. He probably would have lighter skin than other Filipinos which would have placed him higher in society than those who have darker skin. (It was hard for me to come to the understanding that in other places of the world, skin color still matters and the homogeny of the “white” culture still exists.)

Racism has been an issue for a few generations now, and while this belief of living in a multicultural and diverse society is ideal, it’s far from realistic. Because people still hold firmly to their ancestry and genealogies in order to give them “identity”, and others still contemplating which box to check on the college application under the heading of “race”, we will never be able to let go of what makes us individual and allow to be added into the mixing pot of multiculturalism.

(1) media.pearsoncmg.com/intl/ema/uk/0131217666/student/0131217666_glo.html

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