Multiculturalism is not compatible with universal participation. Don’t think for a second that it has anything to do with a “melting pot” in which people from different cultures share a set of values and principles establishing their national identity and governing principles. Quite the contrary: multiculturalism is a clunky cauldron of “identities” competing in a grievance-sweepstakes, and admission to the competition is very selective. Indeed, you might not be from a culture that is celebrated by multiculturalists. And if your not, then your culture is probably one that deserves condemnation. The participation limits inherent in multiculturalism don’t stop there. If you so much as try to celebrate other cultures, you might be accused of cultural appropriation.
The trick to fully participate in multiculturalism is that your culture must have a claim to victimhood. But sometimes even that isn’t good enough. For example, even if your ancestors were holocaust survivors, your identification as a Jew might make your status quite fragile among multiculturalists. Don’t even mention it if you’re a Christian or of European extraction. Even Asians and “white Hispanics” are sometimes “othered” as well, depending on their economic status and political views. Again, as a minimum requirement, your culture must have a claim to victimhood or else you are, by default, part of the privileged class. And yeah, you’re probably a racist to boot.
Rod Dreher prefers the term asymmetrical multiculturalism as a reference for this kind of identity politics. It’s so asymmetrical that even white, gentry progressives who voice unqualified approval are stymied by its power to suppress their own expression of thought. He quotes a reader whose wife recently attended a brunch with some urban friends:
“Every single friend confessed that they and their husbands plan to sell their homes and move to other areas of the county because ‘the schools have gotten so bad.’… All of these nice, liberal-signaling people are uprooting their entire lives to get their kids into better schools, but they can never speak the reason aloud. The schools turning bad is force majeure, you see, like a hurricane or an earthquake, but with utterly mysterious origins, like a pulse from another dimension that leaves the world’s top scientists scratching their heads.”
Their children apparently attend schools with growing cohorts of otherwise intelligent, immigrant children who are unprepared to learn, in English, at the same pace and under the same set of behavioral expectations as their own. If you are white, you cannot speak constructively of any shortcomings that might crop up within a multicultural community, especially one with a population of illegal immigrants, without being condemned as a racist. Critical words are seen as evidence of prejudice, according to this view. Its power is manifest in the reluctance of these brunching progressives to articulate the reasons for the decline of their local schools.
At the same time, you better not intimate that your own group has a legitimate “identity”. Peggy Noonan reports that the Inclusive Communications Task Force at Colorado State University has advised that one should not speak of “Americans” because “it erases other cultures”. It makes no difference whether your interests as an American align with those of other groups. Just do not speak of it!
Everything in this game of status depends on the whims of the coterie of jealous multicultural gatekeepers. Writing for The Claremont Institute, Ryan P. Williams describes multiculturalism thusly:
“… multiculturalism defines and defends the rights of groups rather than individuals and denies the possibility of any natural standard from which to assess the goodness of political or moral arrangements. … multiculturalism denies equality of each under the law of all. But so too does multiculturalism therefore abandon any principled adjudication of willful or rival claims to prestige, honor, and resources advanced by groups as a matter of right. Will and force replace reason and deliberation.
Multiculturalism is based on the nominal equality (really, the contending wills or force) of oppressed groups, but on a sliding scale regulated by fashionable opinion in the universities and their applied-science workshop, the administrative state. Justice means the due distribution by the state of prestige, power, and resources to this ranked system of groups.”
It would be wonderful if multiculturalism had only to do with the pride, recognition, and the broad sharing of diverse cultures. Today, unfortunately, that is not the thrust, if it ever was. Instead, it is about the promotion and elevation of some cultures at the expense of others. Its rewards are arbitrary and without reference to merit, and it seeks to levy corresponding punishments on those without fault. It is a zero-sum system of thinking about the distribution of rewards and the value of lives. Its advocates are preoccupied with valuing the injustices of the distant past as obligations of innocent human contemporaries. It is about keeping score, rather than creating value. It is bigotry and racism by another name. And it rejects our constitutional principles in favor of selectively assigned rights, including “rights” to reparations.
These are the kinds of dangerous tenets that are slowly becoming institutionalized in our schools, media, administrative agencies, private businesses, and even in the language. We can hope that because the current variant of multiculturalism is so insane, it might be politically unstable. Such a corrupt philosophy attracts corrupt, power- and rent-seeking individuals along with throngs of unstable social justice warriors. Multiculturalism, at least in this perverse form, might well sow the seeds of its own destruction before its divisiveness destroys the country.