I spontaneously made a statement during our recent monthly Conscious Ageing Meeting. This impulsive articulation of an inspirational hunch has resulted in my delving into a profound journey of research and meditation. My suggestion. At our next monthly meeting, we will feature the concept of Multiculturalism as a focal point for discussion.
Multiculturalism can be defined as the doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably side by side in the same country
My motivation for this topic was based on my semi-conscious feelings around the contemporary changing attitudes to the integration of different cultural and ethnic groups into mainstream society. This hunch has verified by subsequent enquiry. The concept seems to have become mainstream in the news of the past week.
Concerns world wide
Evidence from all over the world – be it the Americas, or Europe, or Africa or Australia; demonstrates controversy over the acculturation of immigrant groups. Should they be encouraged to foster their own unique identity, or should they be expected to integrate into the dominant culture of the country of their birth; the land of their adoption?
The first contribution to my thinking resulted from a report I received from a good friend in Israel, an experienced teacher of English as a foreign language in the south of the country. It is in this region around the Negev Desert that the majority of Bedouin Arabs live. I learned that during their primary and high school education, the Bedouins and Jewish populations in Israel go to schools devoted solely to their population group. It is when they enter the stage of their tertiary education that Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs meet socially for the first time. This new situation brings with it the challenges of adapting to people with a wide variety of social norms and cultural values.
This knowledge led me to think about the educational system in South Africa. In the days of apartheid, there were schools for people of African Descent, of Mixed Race, and Asian parentage. White children attended their schools devoted to their population group. During the past 20 years, since the dismantling of the former political dispensation, schools in this country have become racially integrated. While there have been some incidences of racism reported in schools during the transition; considering the rapidity of change, the new system is working amazingly well.
And, in my family
I am privileged to have an adopted Zulu grand-daughter who attends a multi-cultural Montessori school which enrols children from the total range of ethnic backgrounds resident in Cape Town. This includes children of African parentage, Coloured children, Asian kids, young persons of mixed race and a sprinkling of Caucasians. When I arrive to fetch my grand-daughter, I am greeted with the words, “Hallo Mishka’s granny.” I find this salutation most appropriate!
Multicultural Song writer
Johnny Clegg died this week at the age of 66. He was a great musician of Jewish descent who blended western music with that of the Zulus. Johnny spent much of his childhood in the company of Zulu children and was enchanted by their music, dance and rhythm.
He was a dancer, anthropologist, singer, songwriter, academic, and activist. Even these accolades fall short of describing the energetic, passionate man who had become one of South Africa’s greatest musical exports. He acted as a cultural ambassador for South Africa by combining western and Zulu tradition in his well know band Jaluka. Listen to his music here
End of Apartheid
The end of Apartheid in South Africa coincided with my entry into a franchise business which allowed me to engage in teaching computer skills to children. It was a great source of satisfaction to me, and a novelty at the time, that I could market our educational opportunities to all population groups. Some of our best customers were children who would have been prohibited from utilising our services a few years previously.
Putting it all together!
Whilst ideologically the concept of a multicultural society appeals to me, it seems that there are many problems when immigrants are allowed to maintain the customs of their motherland. From the wearing of different apparel, the practice of different cultural norms and the adherence to different value systems; there may be many conflicts of interest.
A high-profile historian Geoffrey Blainey first achieved mainstream recognition for the anti-multiculturalist cause when he wrote that Multiculturalism threatened to transform Australia into a “cluster of tribes”. He criticised Multiculturalism for tending to “emphasise the rights of ethnic minorities at the expense of the majority of Australians”.
Major News Story
At the present moment, we have President Trump continuously in the news regarding his policies on the Mexican border. He has been suggesting the four Democratic women who are criticising his policies should, “Go back to your own country, and fix the crime infested places from which you came.” This is even though three of them were born in America, and the fourth is a naturalised citizen.
These comments have led to a tremendous backlash with views on slavery, the holocaust and other historical forms of exclusion are emerging to the forefront of political discourse.
What do you think?
If you do not favour Multiculturalism, does that mean you are a racist? It seems to me that some balance needs to be found between retaining one’s personal identity, and adopting the customs of the major cultural group in our country of residence.
Your thoughts would be welcome in the Comments section of this blog post.