Policy Contexts in the Arts
The evidence that American society is characterized by racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, and increasingly so, is inescapable. During the 1980s, all population groups showed a numerical increase. But the percentage of whites in the total population of 248,709,873 declined from 83.1 to 80.3%, whereas the percentages of other populations have increased: black (11.7 to 12.1%), American Indian (0.6 to 0.8%), Asian (1.5 to 2.9%), and Hispanic (6.4 to 9.0%). These trends were fueled by several factors: heavy immigration by Hispanic and Asian groups; higher birthrates among peoples of color than whites; and lower death rates among the relatively younger Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian populations than whites. 1
There is every reason to believe that these population trends will continue. It is estimated that by the year 2000 one out of every four Americans will be of black, American Indian, Asian, or Hispanic descent; by 2030, it is predicted that the figure will grow to nearly one in three. 2
But to demonstrate, even unarguably, that American society is racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse is not a sufficient basis to conclude that the same society is multicultural. Multiculturalism is a normative term. It embodies a vision of an ideal state of affairs in a society; in particular, it comprises concepts and value commitments concerning how the cultural, political, economic, and social relations of racial and ethnic groups ought to be in American society. Multiculturalism also entails value positions in many spheres of human experience, both individual and social.
Whenever questions of value arise in a societal context, especially those with implications for the public at large, those questions are likely to become a matter of debate over public policy. Public policies involve action and allocation of resources to achieve individual, group, and societal purposes, purposes rooted in human values and ideals. Policy issues arise when there is some conflict of values. Choice among values is necessitated,