Multicultural Diversity

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Multicultural Diversity

Multicultural Diversity


Multicultural diversity is a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity. Mere toleration of group differences is said to fall short of treating members of minority groups as equal citizens; recognition and positive accommodation of group differences are required through “group-differentiated rights. Some group-differentiated rights are held by individual members of minority groups, as in the case of individuals who are granted exemptions from generally applicable laws in virtue of their religious beliefs or individuals who seek language accommodations in schools or in voting. Other group-differentiated rights are held by the group qua group rather by its members severally; such rights are properly called group rights, as in the case of indigenous groups and minority nations, who claim the right of self-determination. In the latter respect, multicultural diversity is closely allied with nationalism.

While multicultural diversity has been used as an umbrella term to characterize the moral and political claims of a wide range of disadvantaged groups, including African Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and the disabled, most theorists of multicultural diversity tend to focus their arguments on immigrants who are ethnic and religious minorities, minority nations, and indigenous peoples.

Multicultural diversity is closely associated with “identity politics,” “the politics of difference,” and “the politics of recognition,” all of which share a commitment to revaluing disrespected identities and changing dominant patterns of representation and communication that marginalize certain groups. Multicultural diversity is also a matter of economic interests and political power; it demands remedies to economic and political disadvantages that people suffer as a result of their minority status.

Discussion & Analyses

Multiculturalists take for granted that it is “culture” and “cultural groups” that are to be recognized and accommodated. Yet multicultural claims include a wide range of claims involving religion, language, ethnicity, nationality, and race. Culture is a notoriously overboard concept, and all of these categories have been subsumed by or equated with the concept of culture. Language and religion are at the heart of many claims for cultural accommodation by immigrants. The key claim made by minority nations is for self-government rights. Race has a more limited role in multicultural discourse (Lee, Brown & Bertera, 2010). Anti racism and multicultural diversity are distinct but related ideas: the former highlights “victimization and resistance” whereas the latter highlights “cultural life, cultural expression, achievements, and the like”. Claims for recognition in the context of multicultural education are demands not just for recognition of aspects of a group's actual culture (for example, African American art and literature) but also for the history of group subordination and its concomitant experience.

Examples of cultural accommodations or “group-differentiated rights” include exemptions from generally applicable law (for example, religious exemptions), assistance to do things that the majority can do unassisted (for example, multilingual ballots, funding for minority language schools and ethnic associations, affirmative action), representation of minorities in government bodies (for example, ethnic quotas for party lists or legislative seats, minority-majority Congressional districts), recognition of traditional legal codes by ...
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