By Gian C. Sud
Earlier this year, syndicated columnist Esther Cepeda, who is printed Sundays in The Pantagraph, wrote a column about being Latino and yearning for the mainstream. The content of the column was self-contradictory in that it suggests “assimilation” on the one hand and diversity of cultures — multiculturalism — on the other.
It exhorts the value of becoming “un-niched” to the Latino people. Then, it calls for people of “(her) eyes and skin color in all types of magazines.” These statements run counter to each other, i.e., the need for belonging (“assimilation”) to the mainstream and the propagation of a “niche” culture.
Does one want to join the “mainstream” or does one want to change the “mainstream”?
A few years back, Ms. Faulkner broke the gender barrier at the Citadel. But, almost immediately after registering for classes, she created a controversy over the “hair cut” policy of the institution. Responding to her protestation of the hair cut requirement, someone mused that she did not want to join Citadel, she wanted to change Citadel.
Multiculturalism has been a popular intellectual concept in recent years. It started with the immigration of people, especially from Asia and Africa, to Europe and America.
The host nations were gracious in welcoming immigrants to their “homes.” But the presence of immigrants also propagated multiculturalism, which has been a subject of debate for many years in countries such as India.
However, it is only recently that people such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have taken a public position on the ill effects of multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism has not been what it was supposed to have been, as evidenced in some of the Asian nations. Perhaps, it has retarded the “un-niching” process in Europe and America.
During the 50 years spanning over the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, Americans of diverse backgrounds “endured strict discipline and remained conformist” to the nation’s homogeneous values. Then came the concepts of ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’.
A recent study released by Scotland Yard has suggested that the modern form of diversity has not yielded the desired results. Further, it seems that multiculturalism may have eroded the long-established American institutions and blurred the concept of Americana.
The colonial powers of the 18th and 19th centuries may have felt the burden of guilt of their actions of colonialism, especially in Asia and Africa. That realization may have created the dawn of multilingualism and multiculturalism, etc. America may well have been the leading pioneer of these concepts.
In fostering the new concepts, the strength of unilingual mode of universal communication and homogeneity of core values may well have been lost.
Doubtless, it is intellectually desirable to be multilingual, but the importance of a common language and homogeneity of culture and core values cannot be minimized.
The homogeneity of American core values and culture may have begun to fray in the 1890s. Eventually, President Teddy Roosevelt felt compelled to warn us against the hyphenated American syndrome. That is exactly what we have now.
Are we really “one nation under God”? Or have the welcoming nations, especially the United States, fostered an “overkill” of multilingualism and multiculturalism?
America and Europe have done well in cheerfully welcoming diverse people to their countries. Now, it would seem that America and the other “inviting nations,” for their sake and that of the “guests,” should dwell on assimilation of these people — bringing people into the real mainstream.
Gian C. Sud of Bloomington is a retired professor.