The Unintended Side Effects of Multiculturalism

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A letter to the editor in the September issue of The Century, a publication produced by the University of Utah Latter-day Saints Student Association, made this bold declaration: “Diversity is what makes life worth living.”

Well, then. Apparently, for some people, establishing meaningful relationships, achieving self actualization and developing highly effective habits are misguided ways to find happiness.

For these well-meaning individuals, the inalienable rights found in the Declaration of Independence might more aptly be listed as life, liberty and the pursuit of diversity.

Most organizations, and especially universities, are aggressively pursuing diversity. The principles behind such efforts?fairness, understanding and tolerance?are admirable.

In most cases, the motives of those who work to achieve diversity?whatever that ambiguous state may be?are equally commendable.

However, even the most admirable efforts can create undesired side effects. Albert Einstein?s important mass-energy equivalence formula (E=MC2) thrilled the scientific community and propelled scientific discovery?but it also led to the atomic bomb.

Such is the case with multiculturalism. Although saying as much usually means being politically incorrect, multiculturalism?modernity?s dazzling diva?does have several ugly stepsisters.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will tears apart the diversity dogma. “A multitude of sins are committed and excused in the service of ?diversity,?” Will wrote, “They include reverse discrimination, quotas and other ?race (or sex or sexual preference)-conscious remedies? used to advance political agendas?”

Will also cites the leftist indoctrination of university studies and the censorship of speech to “enforce sensitivity” as results of multiculturalism.

Others criticize multiculturalism, though not as harshly.

Multiculturalism perpetuates victimization, says the Very Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, dean of the Washington National Cathedral. In a recent sermon, he taught, “We are all victims of something: racism, sexism, homophobia, classism?even privilegism that says nobody likes us because we are successful.”

“There is a pride,” Baxter continued, “a manipulative sense of power in being a victim today, and our?fights are often about who is more oppressed, or whose turn it is to be exalted as the ?victim of the day.?”

Legal defense funds reflect this sense of victimization. Women, children, Italian Americans and even animals have their own legal defense funds. The Home School Legal Defense Fund (if you can believe it exists) has been around for nearly 20 years. Former President Clinton reportedly raised over $8 million with the Clinton Legal Expense Trust.

The name “defense fund” itself mirrors a victimized attitude. The groups behind these funds?which add up to pretty much everyone?are simply “defending” themselves from attacks at all sides.

But who, in fact, is attacking?

In many cases, the real enemy is an enhanced sense of “rights,” or the belief that nobody should be restricted from doing anything at any time in any way.

When Aaron Schubert?a male?ran for Homecoming Queen at New Mexico State University in 1999, the school disallowed his candidacy. This “inequality on campus” led Matthew Peterson, one of Schubert?s supporters, to say this:

“If there is one person who feels like his or her right to express him or herself is restricted by any law, then there is an injustice that we have to investigate and make it right.”

Peterson subscribes to the philosophy of the extreme individualists, who believe that almost any rule restricts an individual?s rights inappropriately. Ironically (but not surprisingly), extremists like Peterson seldom appreciate the right of others to disagree with them.

Victimization leads to another problem: divisiveness. How could the diversity movement, which focuses so much on tolerance and acceptance, possibly divide people and organizations?

For each group to effectively voice its concerns, it must differentiate itself from others, usually based around a few primary grievances or interests. According to Baxter, this compels people to see themselves separately from other groups and “makes it impossible for us to ask what is in the interest of the society as a whole.”

Individuals should question the diversity doctrine that insists highlighting differences always leads to cohesion.

For black columnist William Raspberry, the most distressing part of the quagmire is that the “victimist approach to political gain,” he wote, “proceeds from a presumption of weakness and, thereby, encourages the aggrieved to magnify their weakness.”

Raspberry, however, is encouraged by a new education advertising campaign. The campaign, called “Success in School Equals Success in Life,” does something Raspberry has been advocating for a long time.

“The campaign,” Raspberry wrote, “calls on disadvantaged minorities to take the lead in their own salvation.” For Raspberry, real empowerment comes when people have the “courage to look inward” and focus on “attitudes?discipline and motivation,” as difficult as the external environment may be.

Raspberry hopes this new focus on internal control will shift the focus of many from “what has been done to me?” to “what can I do to improve myself?”

Albert Einstein, whose work influenced the creation of the atom bomb, originally supported its production. He later regretted his decision, saying, “I made one great mistake in my life?when I signed that letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made.”

Society?s experience with multiculturalism may mirror Einstein?s experience with the atom bomb.

Moderate multiculturalism may, in fact, contribute greatly to society. Unchecked and unquestioned, however, it may be “one great mistake” society makes.

Mike welcomes feedback at: [email protected].