Letter: Multiculturalism Debate Needed

The Birmingham Post (England), May 20, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Letter: Multiculturalism Debate Needed


Dear Editor, -I read with interest your article 'Is it time to drop the term multiculturalism?' (Post, April 6) This debate and the critical reflection it entails are often absent from dialogue between organisations committed to extending equality of opportunity and social justice in the city. Multiculturalism would seem at first glance to be a sensitive response to the needs of black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. However at the heart of multiculturalism lies a strategy that reinforces and promotes difference at the expense of inclusion and justice. This approach is at least partially responsible for holding back progress on the equality agenda in the city as it is based on an assumption that BME people are in some way essentially different from British people. Multiculturalism -and its focus on difference -has led to a city of competing cultures where 'communities' -and the organisations that pertain to represent them - jostle for position and resources at the expense of others. This competition has created a city of parallel lives where chances for cohesion and equality across groups have been missed.

A deconstruction of multiculturalism, for example, leads one to question the thinking behind the acceptance and promotion of community representatives (such as the three faith leaders that were consulted in your newspaper article) as legitimate representatives of the community's collective voice. Further critical analysis also leads one to challenge the stereotypes that have informed the provision of special services for BME people's needs. By searching for a core of Britishness Trevor Phillips, like others before him, is seeking a common set of values and standards that can inform the way people treat one another. Britain has never had a core set of values or standards that everyone has agreed.

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