June 20, 2021

Multiculturalism means living with folks who aren't as smart about you as you are

Sam Smith - As the virtuous drive towards more multiculturalism grows increasingly powerful, a predictable but largely ignored problem raises its head, namely the more contact we have with those of other cultures the greater chance that we, or they, will say or do something found dumb or offensive. 

The cancel culture is one example of this at work and, like other cases, it ironically has a divisive rather than unifying effect on those involved. And complaining about "white supremacy" is hardly the best way to build a cross-ethnic relationship. The oddity is that, in the name of a more united community, we can increase the anger. 

This shouldn't surprise us. If you have varied cultures, you're going to have varied language, habits, values and beliefs. Handling differences that are the result of ignorance rather than prejudice, however, can not be usefully reduced to anger or dismissal. Rather they are an assignment for education and friendly prodding. 

Which is one reason I find it so strange that we are emphasizing teaching the evils of past ethnic relations without corrective educational attention to the ways they could be better. 

Similarly, the use of the wrong pronouns in speaking of transgender  folk should not be put on the same target list as, say, hatred of gays. Rather, ways should be found to gently correct the terminology rather than scold the speaker in question. 

Our failure to even talk about this is in part a reflection of the decline of community in our society.  One of the characteristics of a working community is the ability of its members to get along with each other even if they have social or political differences. As life has become more individualized, even such a traditional habit can be lost. 

If we were to better separate lack of cultural knowledge from hatred, we would better our relationship with others. It's worth at least a try.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Completely agree, Sam. While it is tiring as a minority to explain the nuances of your everyday reality, you have had more time to get used to this than other people, who may be well meaning but sometimes wrong-footed in their inquiries or approach, and this is not to be confused with somebody who is determined to make sure you know that they consider you a lesser being for your difference. It is sad to see 'well meaning people' also being criticized for getting things wrong, but no minority has achieved increased social and cultural freedoms without support from well meaning members of the majority. I think this is a social and cultural phenomenon of our time that will mellow as people learn more about what actually makes people get along better. Thank you for your thoughtful blog!