Multiculturalism in Rural America
Multiculturalism in rural America has two distinctive but interrelated dimensions. First, there is the matter of the rural itself within an unrelenting urban milieu. Second, there is the multicultural reality in and of itself -- rural people are diverse and this diversity is poorly understood and too little appreciated.
Everywhere, so it seems, the march of urbanization appears inevitable, entirely desirable, the mark of "progress," the accepted norm. This view is as true among planners and policy makers as with others. A strong urban bias exists within the planning community, and this orientation and worldview sees multiculturalism almost exclusively in urban terms. Either by neglecting or denying the existence of multicultural issues in village and hinterland areas -- let alone the importance of rural people and the integrity of rural living -- planners and policy makers exhibit a myopia and a certain arrogance of place. This urban bias consistently fails to recognize the great diversity in and among rural people and places and has led to a fundamental unwillingness to treat in a serious and meaningful way the many issues and problems confronting rural people, their families, and communities.
Neglect of the rural, itself a salient dimension of the multicultural problem, is abetted and undergirded by our myths about rural people. On the one hand, we have tended to idealize rural people as virtuous, hard-working, self-reliant, stable, patriotic, and inherently democratic. In a word, they are extolled as being "Jeffersonian." Such people can solve their own problems and, thus, require very little in the way of support and help. It is often remarked of even the rural poor, for example, that "at least they can grow their own food." On the other hand, we have also stereotyped rural people as inbred, intolerant, ignorant, and grotesque. David Bell has accurately labeled this the anti-rural idyll, or the "hillbilly horror and rural