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Multiculturalism Schlesinger

In: English and Literature

Submitted By sasa21
Words 1440
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Introduction : Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr. was an American historian, social critic, and public intellectual, son of the influential historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. As a specialist in American history, much of Schlesinger's work explored the history of the 20th-century American liberalism. In particular, his work focused on leaders such as Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. In the 1952 and 1956 , in the presidential campaigns he was a primary speechwriter and adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson II. Schlesinger served as special assistant and "court historian" to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. He wrote a detailed account of the Kennedy Administration, from the 1960 presidential campaign to the president's state funeral, titled A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. In 1991, when the end of the Cold War released long repressed ethnic, racial, and religious antagonisms, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. wrote a book that raised the discussion of multiculturalism in American society to a new level. Arthur Schlesinger Jr asks in his book: What does it mean to be an American? The classic image of the republic is that of the melting pot where differences of race, wealth, religion and nationality are submerged in democracy. But now there is a new orthodoxy: America as a collection of self-interest groups, celebrating difference and abandoning the idea of assimilation, it’s what we called multiculturalism. This challenging work soon became a popular bestseller and an integral part of college courses across the country.

Problematic : Why Multiculturalism is a major problem for America according A. Schlesinger ?

I - Emergence of Ethnocentrism

In this book, Arthur Schlesinger ask what has become “multiculturalism” from the time they lived with the Native Indians until now. To him, the meaning has changed for sure. People might think after reading his book that he is against multiculturalism, when in reality he is more concerned about people conceptions of today’s “multiculturalism” and states it didn’t not only changed in meaning but also became an ideology. Multiculturalism initially means unifying different cultures as one. America is home to several people of different races and communities. Like said before, its meaning changed and has a sort of ‘false definition’ over there. Line 11-12 I quote: “In its mild form, it [Multiculturalism] calls attention to neglected groups, themes, and viewpoints and redresses a shameful imbalance in the treatment of minorities”. People of all colours and cultural backgrounds indeed live within the same country, but in reality, they stay within the same ethnic groups: hence the creation of Chinatowns, Little Italys, neighbourhoods designed by people’s origins and so on. They and their culture in fact don’t really mix with each other. Over time, minorities gained more power and influence on politics and education, and try to make a balance between people of different origins and cultures. (For example in August 2014, the case of Mike Brown and Ferguson had black communities across America protest against the biased justice system and demanded for something more fair. There is also the system of “affirmative action” which consists of giving people (usually minorities) a kind of special treatment to help them such as special scholarships in education) Line 13-16 “However, multiculturalism also assumes a militant form in which it opposes the idea of a common culture, rejects the goals of assimilation and integration, and celebrates the immutability of diverse and separate ethnic and racial community” Line 27-28 he wrote: “Yet militant multiculturalists, instead of recognizing the beauty of e pluribus unum, prefer to dismiss unum and exalt pluribus” E pluribus unum -> One of America’s mottos, meaning “one out of many” or could also be translated or implied as “unity is strength” For Arthur Schlesinger, ‘modern multiculturalism’ is doing the contrary of what it is supposed to do. People from each communities wants other people to be aware and educated about their own cultures and struggles, not for the sake of merging cultures together, but mostly to teach one’s cultural history to the other and in certain cases avoid serious conflicts and controversy. This is due to what the author calls “understandable historic resentments”; colored communities and even white people (the non Anglo-Saxons ones) were more persecuted and less privileged than white Anglo-Saxons. For Schlesinger, people now reject the bases of American history through Europe or “Eurocentrism” to raise and praise their own. According to the author, the problem of modern multiculturalism lies in the extremists that rejects the actual meaning of the word and turned it into its polar opposite and new kind of ethnocentrism. Multiculturalism has been part of American history ever since its birth as a nation, people now are American because they live in the country of America as long as they are lawful and follow the Constitution, regardless of their origins and culture, that is in theory.

II - A political contradiction : Is multiculturalism rimes with Laws ?

For a long time, white and black have not the same right, but the bill of right should provide the same right for everyone no matter the race origin or social class. Even after slavery ending, black Americans were putting away and they had no right and no way to express it. During that period, many case of rapes of black man were told, but very often they were not guilty. It’s only in the late 50’s 60’s that black Americans had been heard a little bit, in 1964, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. It prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, colour, religion, or national origin. Some months later, the KKK started some murder in series of Black people. The next years they gained the right to vote in the south, but everyone wasn’t able to vote, only literate person. Poll tax, literacy test & other such requirements were used to restrict black voting. Then a second civil right etc… I’m saying all that because, According to Schlesinger, multiculturalism is the base of the creation of the U.S. In fact, the U.S was politically created by mass of Immigrants from European states, and yet before its nation-state development, the land was occupied by many indigenous nations. America’s history has been riddled with race issues and conflicts, and with each immigration waves, they have welcomed their newcomers. But after the great surge of immigration between 1890 and 1917, a campaign against immigration resulted in the Immigration Act of 1924, froze immigration into quotas based on the national origins of the population in 1890. (And after that the Kennedy administration abolished it in 1924) Even if multiculturalism is the source of the U.S, as we can see line 20 « All who subscribe to the Anglo-Saxon whites where snubbed and shunned. Most black Americans were slaves until 1865.Women could not vote until 1920. » It show that is was not only a problem of ethnicity, but also a gender issues. Americans aren’t respecting the works of the Founding Father, in particular the Bill of Rights in this extract. The First Amendment says « Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances » that’s means prohibition making any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting for a governmental redress of grievances. But why aren’t they equal if they all have the same rights ? They should be equal no matter their races, classes or nations. According Schlesinger, there is a « New Race » , this New Race is the result of all nations melt together who acts upon new principles. Then we can’t talk about multiculturalism because multiculturalism is the preservation of different Cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or a nation. Then come the notion of monoculturalism, but people shouldn’t drop their identities for America as it is the source of the nation. Conclusion :

To conclude, If multiculturalism work differently today according to Schlesinger, it is because of the power of the government. They don’t respect the founding laws of U.S and people misunderstanding the real notion of multiculturalism. They should share their culture together but as they are afraid because they think that, to be Americans they should forget about their origin, they are staying in small ethnic groups.

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