Multiculturalism: American Culture Essay
Multiculturalism “The Chinese in All of Us” is a piece written by Richard Rodriguez that addresses multiculturalism. In this piece, he explains that he is an advocate for the metaphorical melting pot. He believes there is merit in being exposed to many different cultures and influences. However, he strongly believes in the common American culture. He is a notorious figure because of his stance against affirmative action and bilingual education. From his point of view, those two issues continue to separate us as a people by highlighting our differences.
As a result some of his critics have dubbed him a “traitor” (Rodriguez, 230). The people who disagree with his view of multiculturalism actually consist of people from many different ethnic backgrounds. Part of this group consists of people who strongly believe in preserving one’s ancestral heritage. Others doubt that the American culture exists at all. They view America as a place where many different cultures come together but remain separate. There are also people who wonder if America can sustain much more diversity or if people from so many backgrounds are even capable of finding a common ground.
While both sides disagree on their view of how multiculturalism is to be appreciated, they both agree that diversity and culture is an important part of life. Rodriguez best explains his view on multiculturalism when he states “I AM MY CULTURE” (231). He argues that culture is who we are, rather than what we are. He places an emphasis on the idea that we all share in America’s culture and diversity. An example that he gives is Black History Month. His argument states that “All of us, by virtue of being Americans, share in the history of black America” (Rodriguez, 232).
There are many periods of time in American history where one group of Americans has blamed another for an injustice. Rodriguez is trying to point out the fact that regardless of a person’s ethnic background, American history belongs to all Americans. In an article for “The Washington Post”, William Booth points out that “It is a particularly American phenomenon, many say, to label citizens by their ethnicity. When a person lived in El Salvador, for example, he or she saw themselves as a nationality. When they arrive in the United States, they become Hispanic or Latino” (One Nation).
This practice is part of the American culture that is confusing to many new people who come to America. It is probably the reason why there are people all over the world who can recognize the American culture, but there are many within our own boarders that question its existence. Rodriguez gives examples from his own childhood to emphasize the alienation many children feel as a result of the conflict of their parent’s culture and Americanization. Rodriguez truly believes that America does exist and in the importance of recognizing it as a common culture that unifies all Americans.
Booth explains that “Today…there is more emphasis on preserving one’s ethnic identity, of finding ways to highlight and defend one’s cultural roots” (One Nation). This emphasis is the driving force behind critics of Rodriguez. Some of his critics have told him “You have lost your culture” (Rodriguez, 230). What they mean is that they believe that he has lost touch with his cultural heritage. They believe that in order to know who you are, you need to remember where you came from. They view multiculturalism as an important aspect of America.
However, they believe that it is important to maintain some degree of separation in order to preserve their cultural past. For example, native born Americans and immigrants alike are afraid of the negative potential influence that mixing cultures could have on their children. Rodriguez points out that many people in the educational system are now questioning whether or not “we should teach our children about our separate cultures” and “forget the notion of a common culture” (232).
These educators worry that there is no way to adequately teach such a diverse student population anything in common. In his article “Bilingual Education vs. English Immersion”, Kenneth Jost explains that a major concern of bilingual advocates is “Most English learners enter school behind fluent English speakers, and many never catch up either in language or other academic areas” (Bilingual Education). In this piece, Jost, begins with a story of a little girl who enjoyed school until she reached the age where her bilingual education stopped.
He states that her grades then began to drop and she would have nightmares. There is also some concern that allowing further immigration could compound these problems. The potential economic problems presented by immigrants’ trouble many people. Many are worried that many of the immigrant families, if allowed to come to this country, would rely heavily on welfare programs without “paying into” the system. In his article, Booth explains that researchers find “sustained ethnic niches” in the labor market (One Nation).
There are many low income families worried that a large influx of immigrant workers, who are willing to work for less, means that some natural born citizens would lose their only source of income. These are all valid concerns. Booth states that “many scholars worry about the loss of community and shared sense of reality among Americans” and that this “concern is echoed by many on both the left and the right, and of all ethnicities, but no one seems to know exactly what to do about it” (One Nation).
Regardless, both sides of this issue are genuinely concerned about America and its future. They both view multiculturalism as an important part of who we are and that diversity is an important part of the American culture. After all, we wouldn’t have some of the luxuries that we enjoy today, such as the variety of food available to us, if this diversity wasn’t part of our culture. These sides currently also have the freedom to live and identify themselves in their own way because the people involved in this dispute are all Americans.
John Raible, a multicultural educator, raises some important questions for our time that could at least create a starting point for progress. These questions are “Who belongs together? How are groups recognized? Should various groups remain separate? On what terms might they come together, or rather, on whose terms? ” (Raible, Transracial Adoption). America is not the only country who has struggled with multiculturalism and immigration. Australia is a country that has had a high rate of immigration in its history.
In fact, initially there were some concerned that they would be marginalized by the influx of new immigrants. However, now Australia is renowned as a multicultural epicenter. The Australian government adequately sums up the heart of its policy with its statement: “The Government is committed to ensuring that all Australians have the opportunity to be active and equal participants in Australian society, free to live their lives and maintain their cultural traditions” (Australian Multiculturalism-The Policy).
Perhaps, the American government needs to make a similar attempt to fully address multiculturalism. On the conceptual level, we as a people need to decide to what degree is ancestral history is important to us and what ancestral heritage we view as valid. Is sharing the American ancestral heritage enough to link us together? Chief Sitting Bull “Let us put our minds together and see what life we shall make for our children” (Raible qtd Yotanka, Transracial Adoption). Works Cited “Australian Multiculturalism—The Policy. Immigration and Multiculturalism: Essential Primary Sources. Ed. K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 422-424. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. Booth, William. “One Nation, Indivisible: Is It History?. ” Washington Post 22 FEB 1988, A1. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. Jost, Kenneth. “Bilingual Education vs. English Immersion. ” CQ Researcher 11 Dec. 2009: 1029-52. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. Raible, John. “Transracial Adoption Is Both a Blessing and a Curse for Adoptees. Interracial America. Ed. Noah Berlatsky. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from “Intro: Transracial Adoption & Social Justice. ” Johnraible. wordpress. com. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. Rodriguez, Richard. “The Chinese in All of Us”. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Custom Edition for Oklahoma City Community College. Eds. Missy James and Alan P. Merickel. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2008 604-605. Print.