It’s time to put an end to multiculturalism and its sickly cousin political correctness. Rather than encouraging enlightened appreciation of cultures other than one’s own and recognizing the horrors of western imperialism – both laudable goals – multiculturalism has become a barrier to penetrating criticism of institutions and practices some people hold dear. This is an issue that conservatives and a growing number of radicals agree on – although for very different reasons.

Paul Wong
Nick Woomer

All multiculturalists are guilty of one of the following: 1) they gloss over truth for the sake of cultural sensitivity, 2) they are hypocrites, 3) they embrace an unacceptable level of moral relativism.

Hiding the truth

In his latest column for The Nation, Christopher Hitchens notes the lackadaisical approach most in the media have taken to the “revelations” that the goodly Rev. Billy Graham is an anti-Semite and that the Catholic Church has spent decades covering up priests’ sexual abuse of children. Graham’s apology is taken at face value; he has undergone much less media scrutiny than black religious leaders like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan who have made similar comments.

Meanwhile, and perhaps more demonstratively, the Catholic Church enjoys similar plush treatment. Instead of proclaiming what is clearly the truth – that the Church is, as Hitchens aptly put it, “a protection racket for child rapists” – American journalists have tiptoed around the issue and thus equated the sexual abuse of children with mere “controversy.” The Church’s role in spreading AIDS and other misery across the developing world as a result of its no birth control policy is similarly mostly ignored so as not to offend our multicultural sensibilities.

The point here is that multiculturalist sentiments – that peoples’ sacred institutions ought not to be interrogated, mocked, questioned or … exposed solely because they are sacred – have prevented, countless times, legitimate criticisms and conclusions from being publicly voiced apropos of some people’s sacred cows.

Hypocrisy

Why it’s OK for black rappers to use the N-word is only the tip of the iceberg. While simultaneously proclaiming respect for all cultures, it is no secret that many-a-multiculturalist will allow the criticism of WASP culture (which, more often than not, deserves to be attacked) while making criticism of minority cultures far more treacherous.

Additionally though, we are all allowed to criticize any group we may have been born into. Under multiculturalism, since I was raised Catholic it isn’t considered bigotry for me to blame a good part of the world AIDS epidemic on John Paul II and his cronies. However, for many multiculturalists, I cross the line when I proclaim that the Koran’s origin is certainly as equally not divine as the Bible’s or that the Mormon church is a bogus cult or that the rituals orthodox Jews subject themselves to on the Sabbath are actually quite ridiculous. Now I’m being mean, hurtful, insensitive and … ignorant!

It’s worth delving into the “ignorant” epithet, because it implies that if only I knew more about the Koran, Mormonism or Sabbath rituals – if only I had an “appreciation” for them – I would not be so quick to air derisive comments about them. But what does “appreciation” really mean? I might still, for example, appreciate the Koran for its literary value, but in order to “appreciate” its supposed spiritual value I have to first be open to certain assumptions – ones that, for petty reasons such as a total lack of evidence, I am quite unwilling to grant.

Thus, the multiculturalist would present me with the following, totally nonsensical dilemma: If I reject the divine origin of the Koran, then I cannot properly appreciate it, and if I cannot properly appreciate the Koran but I nevertheless continue to reject its divine origin then I am ignorant. So basically, if I were to hurt the feelings of a devout Muslim by telling him or her that the Koran is just as man made (and man-inspired) as the Bible, The Celestine Prophecy or, for that matter, a Danielle Steel novel, I would be ignorant.

The result of this diabolic ideology, then, is to equate “insensitivity” (or frankness) with ignorance – positions are ignorant, then, if they offend; that can’t be good for free, public discourse.

Moral relativism

This one’s pretty easy. The radical multiculturalist refuses to pass judgment on other (minority) cultures. These are the people who think condemning, say, female circumcision or slavery in Africa is a form of gross cultural imperialism.

No.

Multiculturalism is not the antidote to Western cultural chauvinism it purports to be, and people who are against it are not all necessarily cultural chauvinists (although a good number of the conservative critics of multiculturalism are). Multiculturalism has given every religious believer an infinite stack of “get out of jail free” cards; it’s time to take that stack away.

Nick Woomer can be reached at nwoomer@umich.edu.

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