Multiculturalism. It’s a word on everyone’s lips these days. What does this contentious word mean? The answer depends on whom you ask. Perhaps it is easier to take the via negative and tell you what it is not. It is not the demeaning of your own culture in favor of another that seems somehow, from a distance, more enlightened. This is a “grass is always greener” scenario and does neither culture any favors, though the temptation is great. We are all guilty of using another race, religion, or way of life as a foil in criticizing our own. Why? Because we know our own and we can see the flaws inherent in it. Naturally, all races and cultures have flaws and those steeped in them will see those cracks and fissures more clearly than a distant neighbor. As such, elevating another race or culture for the purpose of denigrating your own is more often than not counterproductive for all involved and may in the end betray one’s ignorance of the other, or at the least one’s naivety.
Further, multiculturalism is not the act of remaining silent in the name of tolerance. How many times have we recently heard the phrase, “not all of them are bad”? If one follows current events, the answer is many times. The answer to the question itself is perhaps an obvious, “of course not”. Human nature simply will not allow for any such absolutes. There is good, bad, and a myriad of in betweens in every facet of humanity regardless of race, creed, or nationality. Moreover, silence in the name of tolerance does not support the majority “in betweens”, nor does our silence support those attempting positive reform from within. Silence only supports a groups’ radicals, those who would demean other races, creeds, and nationalities.
Indeed, when we remain silent or, worse yet, demand concessions for this or that minority we may inadvertently silence the voices of the abused and oppressed in our irrational and selfish fear of being called phobic, racist, or intolerant. This is not liberalism. This is not enlightened tolerance or multiculturalism. This is cowardice, perhaps even condescension; for we often withhold criticism for fear of offending ~ the “Other” may react negatively, after all. Are we not all capable of a rational and perhaps even beneficial conversation about our differences? Of course we are, and we would all benefit from such a conversation, if done frankly, openly, and honestly without fear of offending and without some vague sense that we have the right not to be offended. No such right exists. Still, many will assert that they do not want their citizens speaking out against a religion or a race, regardless of the situation at hand. To this I would assert that these individuals are betraying the very freedom of speech that paradoxically allows them to silence their neighbors.
We must ask ourselves a few questions. How many riots does it take before we’ll stop making excuses? How many millions of extremists do we need to count before we'll be outraged, before we'll speak out against their intolerance? In the name of our tolerance, our fear of being labeled a bigot or a racist, we erode our right to offer that tolerance to anyone and everyone, including ourselves. When others assert their right to multiculturalism and tolerance, it is perfectly acceptable to assert your rights as well; by their side, hand in hand.
I’ll close by addressing the obvious elephant in everyone’s room. "What about the good Muslim (or pagan, or Christian, or ______ (insert your favorite group) who lives in my neighborhood? Surely this proves not all of them are bad." Such a thing needn't be proved as it was never legitimately questioned. But since the subject has been brought up so many times of late, what about these good Muslims? I’m certain there are plenty of them. Some of these good Muslims are even courageous enough to attempt the reform of their own faith from within. When we bow down to political correctness and look the other way rather than speaking out against abuses that transcend lines of race and culture ~ for religion can cross all of these lines ~ we support the oppressors rather than the oppressed. We don’t want to be called intolerant or racist, of course, but do we want to be silent and thus a potential accomplice to injustice? Of course not. There is clearly a fine line to be walked here, but the line isn’t invisible and we can walk it together.
A Ph.D. shelved in lieu of research inverted and traditional values abandoned, the work of Rachel Summers is a place where socially sanctioned morality is turned on its head in order to shake out just a few drops of enlightenment. Summers holds degrees in History, Comparative religions, English Literature, and Philosophy, all centered on the late medieval era.