We need an honest conversation on Multiculturalism

There’s been lots of talk about multiculturalism in the last couple of years. Some have argued that multiculturalism is a failed model in Britain. Whilst others have argued that multiculturalism has benefitted society. Then there are those who are not entirely happy with the model. They on the one hand would like to preserve and respect differences and to promote cultural diversity, but at the same time there needs to exist a sense of commonality between different communities. But the problem lies in how to implement this and how to find a more sophisticated way of promoting integration and multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism in a sense grants citizens civil entitlements. Multiculturalism embodies the celebration of different races. And if your living in london or Birmingham in 2018, you can see that multiculturalism has allowed different cultures to peacefully co-exist, side by side with each other. However, some proponents of multiculturalism point out that the state has in turn created problems within society. It’s easy to relate to or feel compassion for others sharing similar markers like religion, race, ethnicity, e.g, muslims feel more for fellow muslims, who are caught up in the ongoing Syrian war than perhaps people of other religions. But it maybe difficult for them to relate to the casualties of the Katrina Hurricane. So in the same respect minorities have become over time self-satisfied, defensive, not open to criticism.

Another criticism anchored towards the multicultural model is that it has allowed the creation of cultures within the mainstream culture, which has led to the highlight of the differences of values and norms, which in turn can lead to intolerance and ignorance. The question that needs to be asked in relation to the effect of multiculturalism is:

1: Has multiculturalism addressed racism?

2: Who has devised multiculturalism?

3: Has multiculturalism allowed us to understand diversity?

4: Has multiculturalism through its celebration of different cultures led to the isolation/segregation of communities?


You get a feeling that multiculturalism is a top down model, something that is exercised without the consultation of the people. Even when i was growing in the 80s, my school did celebrate different cultures, but that wasn’t the priority of my parents, they just wanted the best education for me. Multiculturalism in the last 30 years has moved us away from talking about important delicate outspoken issues such as racism, immigration, religion. By advocating toleration and celebrating multiculturalism has on the one side educated communities, and this has allowed a fusion of different cultures coming to form an identity of an individual giving a new identity to Britishness. But this doesn’t mean if we (the host being white) have a party and invite Jamaicans and Indians, this will resolve the issue of racism. And a good example of this is the Stephen Lawrence murder which coincidentally, at the time of writing this piece, has been 25 years since the murder. The racist murder of Stephen Lawrence did not only highlight that racism still existed, but that racism was deeply rooted in institutions such as the Metropolitan Police force. From Sir William Macpherson’s report the Metropolitan police force was found guilty of institutional racism, which hampered the investigation and which failed to bring justice to the Lawrence family.

Multiculturalism in the last 40 years has helped with social cohesion and the fight against inequality and racism, but at the same time has divided communities, and to criticise it you can be labelled as a nazi, bigot, right-wing, loony…This forced silencing by the liberal mainstream media and the political establishment has led to a powerful undercurrent of right-wing, nationalistic wave of populism in the west. These hidden concerned voices need to be engaged with in the public sphere rather than being muffled.

In 2018 we need an honest conversation on multiculturalism.

Reference: Multiculturalism; a failed experiment?

Yasmin Alibhai- Brown, Candace Allen, Ted Cantle, Dreda Say Mitchell

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