Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Multicultural Planning in Deed: Lessons from the Mediation Practice of Shirley Solomon and Larry Sherman

John Forester

Respect conceived as the mere acceptance of difference stymies interaction, dialogue, and mutual learning. It enjoins us to appreciate others but not to engage them in mutual critical reflection. The end product of multiculturalism misinterpreted as mere acceptance can thus be isolation (We're us and they're them). This is not respect but neglect.

--Fay 1996:240

Planning conflicts often involve not only resources like land and money, but relationships that involve personality and politics, race, ethnicity and culture, too. In part, this is one of the challenges of a multicultural planning practice -- the ability to anticipate and respond sensitively and creatively to complex differences of standpoint, background, race and gender, cultural, and political history. Burayidi put the challenge succinctly in chapter 1 when he wrote, "For planners, the practical imperative is no longer whether planning ought to be culturally sensitive, but how (it can be so)? How do planners accommodate one group's view of the physical environment when it conflicts with that of another group? More importantly, the question remains whether. . . planning can be sensitive to diverse cultures and yet maintain a unified public realm?"

This chapter takes an unconventional approach to these questions by examining planning practice not across types of cases or across regions or even types of problems, but from the inside of the practice of environmental and community mediators who have squarely confronted practical questions of multicultural difference. This analysis is just one part of the author's work in progress studying planners' and mediators' responses to challenges of ethnic, racial, and cultural difference. 1

By considering the accounts of mediators, facilitators, and planners who have worked in the face of multicultural challenges, we can explore the demands of such practice. Perhaps we can improve upon the accounts we review, but more likely we will find many suggestions for improving current planning practice. The point

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