What is Multiculturalism?
For a lay person’s understanding, multiculturalism is simply the acceptance of several cultures within a single nation or area. Although multiculturalism might be a philosophy or a policy, it is really more of a way of life. In addition, multiculturalism is a sociological viewpoint that acknowledges the relevance of cultural groups in society as well as the diversity of cultures present in it. Since the beginning of the discipline, multiculturalism has played a significant role in sociology.
What is Multiculturalism?
Furthermore, Bhikhu Parekh in his famous book ‘Rethinking Multiculturalism’ asserts that multiculturalism is made up of the creative interplay of three complementary insights, namely
- the human ability to adapt to other cultures.
- the necessity and benefit of international communication and cultural diversity.
- And each and every culture’s intrinsic diversity. (Parekh, 2002)
Moreover, to successfully develop a multicultural society, certain common techniques must be put into practise, such as promoting diversity, respecting cultural history, and encouraging intercultural discussion. People who live in multicultural areas are exposed to other cultures, which aids in their understanding and appreciation of other people’s beliefs and practices. A more welcoming and peaceful environment might arise from this.
The following are some instances of multiculturalism all across the world. In the United States, for example, The city of New York, which is populated by individuals from various countries -The nation of India, which is home to a wide variety of cultures and faiths -The state of California, which has a sizable Hispanic population – The multicultural success of Toronto, which is home to residents from numerous nations and cultures.
Multiculturalism in Canada: A Cultural Mosaic
The acceptance and integration of individuals from various cultures in Canadian society is known as multiculturalism. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which ensures that everyone has the right to preserve their cultural heritage, is rooted in multiculturalism. Since the early 1970s, Canadian society has embraced a multicultural policy to protect everyone’s interests by embracing cultural variety and managing the rising francophone nationalism (French-Canadian nationalism), notably in the Quebec province. It’s significant because Canada was the first nation to formally implement a multiculturalism policy. (Multiculturalism, n.d.)
The Canadian government defines multiculturalism as “a policy and a process that recognizes the diversity of cultures in Canada and the contributions of these cultures to the enrichment of Canadian society.”
The same factors have led to Canadian society earning the moniker “cultural mosaic.” This is due to the fact that Canada is a land of many distinct cultures. People have immigrated to Canada from all around the world to live. Canada is a tremendously varied nation as a result. A state or society that has a variety of cultures is referred to as being multicultural. Multiculturalism is also formally acknowledged by the Canadian government as a philosophy and a policy.
Furthermore, Canada is home to a wide variety of multiculturalism instances. One illustration is the diversity of cultures and religions that may be found in Canada. This is seen from the several celebrations, including Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Eid, that are observed throughout Canada. Another illustration of Canada’s multiculturalism is found in the variety of languages that are spoken there. There are many different cultures and religions in Canada. Also, the food, music, art, and literature of Canada all reflect the country’s multiculturalism.
As previously said, the government has laws and policies in place to protect and promote multiculturalism, but one of Canada’s provinces, Quebec, frequently refers to its policy as “interculturalism.” French is the dominant language in this area, and diversity is only accepted to a limited degree.
Multiculturalism in the USA: A melting pot Society
The melting pot theory led to the emergence of multiculturalism in America. According to the “melting pot” notion, all civilizations will eventually merge into one. Israel Zangwill, who lived in the early 1900s, was the person who initially came up with this concept. Because America was a melting pot of many different civilizations, he thought that it was the ideal place for this to occur.
The observance of Chinese New Year, African American History Month, and Cinco de Mayo are a few instances of diversity in the US. These occasions honour the variety of cultures present in the United States. The largest minority group in the United States is the Hispanic and Latino community. The second-largest minority group in the US is the African American community.
However, it has been noted that because of the pervasive racism in the US, these minority societies are frequently denigrated. African Americans, for instance, are looked down upon by some White Americans. The idea of “double consciousness” has origins in the US since white supremacy in society is somehow justified by American culture. Additionally, because black people make a concerted effort to blend in by surrendering their own cultural values, at times, they too fall victim to this dominating culture.
Multiculturalism: A comparison of Canadian and the USA
The multiculturalism of the United States and Canada differs significantly. Assimilation is a concept that underpins multiculturalism in the United States, where immigrants are expected to give up their cultural background and accept American values. Multiculturalism in Canada is built on the principle of integration, in which newcomers are encouraged to preserve their cultural traditions while simultaneously integrating into Canadian society.
Multiculturalism is a philosophy that originated in the United States and is based on the concept of pluralism there. Immigrants are encouraged to preserve their cultural heritage and to establish their own cultural communities within American society. While it is not a government policy in the United States, multiculturalism is endorsed by the government in Canada. There are numerous government-funded initiatives in Canada that promote multiculturalism, including language training and job placement programs. There are also many organizations that support multiculturalism, such as the Canadian Multiculturalism Council.
Aforementioned, in the United States, there is a strong belief in the melting pot theory, which holds that all cultures in the country will eventually merge into a single American culture. In Canada, there is a strong belief in the salad bowl or mosaic theory, which holds that different cultures will retain their own distinct identities. One example of the difference between Canadian and American multiculturalism is the way that each country celebrates its diversity. In the United States, holidays such as Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day are celebrated with gusto by people of all backgrounds. However, in Canada these holidays are more muted and are not celebrated to the same extent by all groups of people.
Additionally, there are some more key ways in which Canadian and American multiculturalism differ. First, the Canadian government has a policy of multiculturalism, while the American government does not have an official policy on multiculturalism. Second, the Canadian government has made a commitment to protecting and promoting multiculturalism unlike the U.S.
According to the multiculturalism “melting pot” theory, all civilizations will eventually merge to create a new, American culture. This hypothesis is predicated on the notion that all immigrants to America eventually acquire American ideals and traditions. The distinctive experiences and viewpoints of many racial and ethnic groups are said to be ignored by opponents of the melting pot notion. They contend that assimilation to the dominant culture is what immigrants should do because the melting pot theory supports the concept that all cultures are equivalent.
On the other hand, John Murray Gibbon’s 1938 book ‘Canadian Mosaic: The Making of a Northern Nation’ served as the inspiration for Canada’s policy on multiculturalism. For the first time, this book openly questioned the US government’s policy of assimilating various cultures into one. It placed emphasis on the concept of integration in opposition to this notion. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which was established between 1963 and 1969, was directly responsible for the Official Language Act, which was then followed by Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy in 1971, the same year that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared in a speech that “Although there are two official languages, there is no official culture.” (Multiculturalism, 2020)
This highlights once more how differently Canada’s multiculturalism policies operate when compared to the US.
To sum up the entire argument, it might be said that while the US and Canada take different approaches to diversity, there isn’t a glaring distinction between these two nations. The idea of the “American mosaic,” which embraces the uniqueness of different cultures, is replacing the idea of the “melting pot,” as Bhikhu Parekh observes. Even the American curriculum, which largely embraced the idea of the melting pot, is now being gradually changed. However, data shows that the majority of Americans believe their country has a unique culture all its own, in contrast to Canada, which lacks a distinct culture. Therefore, people of dominant groups in the US do not readily embrace other communities, such as Black people, in the same way as does Canada.
Despite the fact that most Canadians embrace a multicultural society, there has been a growing hostility towards immigrants over the years because they have exacerbated the country’s labor market problems and have access to benefits that regular citizens do not. In contrast to the US, Canada is a sparsely populated country that requires a human workforce. For this reason, Canada frequently promotes and implements immigrant-friendly policies to attract as many people as possible. However, because of its high population density, the US is not one of such countries, and as a result, neither are immigrants or other minorities more openly supported by its policies.
In the US, the phrase “Black lives matter” could be heard on the streets even today. By enacting multiculturalism as a federal public policy and creating an anti-racism framework to protect the interests of all communities, just as the Canadian government has done, this problem of misrecognition must be addressed.
- Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2016, Vol. 4(2), 623–645, https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v4i2.639
- Owen, D. (2005, September 11 to 16). American Identity, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism. civiced.org. https://www.civiced.org/pdfs/germanPaper0905/DianaOwen2005.pdf
- Fearon, J. (2019, December 31). So What Exactly is Canadian Culture? Youth Are Awesome, a Program of Youth Central. https://youthareawesome.com/so-what-exactly-is-canadian-culture/
- Canadian Multiculturalism. (n.d.). https://lop.parl.ca/sites/PublicWebsite/default/en_CA/ResearchPublications/200920E
- Parekh, B. (2002). Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. Harvard University Press.