Blair’s Take on Multiculturalism is Right On
- 29 December 2006 by Author 0 Comments
Blair’s Take on Multiculturalism is Right On
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 12/29/06
Last week Tony Blair, Britain’s Prime Minister, declared an end to multiculturalism in the United Kingdom. Said Blair, “When it comes to our essential values – belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage – then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.”
Blair made the surprising declaration after witnessing the continued erosion of the British culture by immigrant groups who supposed that their religious legal system superceded the British system. Combined with the progressive splintering of British society into groups that failed to assimilate into the British mainstream, Blair obviously believes enough is enough.
Blair continued, “The whole point is that multicultural Britain was never supposed to be a celebration of division; but of diversity. The purpose was to allow people to live harmoniously together, despite their difference; not to make their difference an encouragement to discord. The values that nurtured it were those of solidarity, of coming together, of peaceful co-existence. The right to be in a multicultural society was always, always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white. Those whites who support the BNP’s policy of separate races and those Muslims who shun integration into British society both contradict the fundamental values that define Britain today: tolerance, solidarity across the racial and religious divide, equality for all and between all.”
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, multiculturalism in the UK was enthusiastically promoted to enable minority communities to retain their own culture and traditions while taking part in the life of mainstream society.
However, the British government has recently backed off from its position, observing that multiculturalism was leading to segregation of some of Britain’s ethnic minority communities, rather than integrating into the mainstream while bringing their distinctive cultures with them in the process. When portions of Oldham, near Manchester can’t even fly the Union Jack because it has a cross on it, multiculturalism has obviously gone too far.
Echoing Blair’s sentiment is the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) an organization which has historically been staunchly supportive of multiculturalism. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the CRE said that multiculturalism was no longer useful as it suggested “separateness.”
In rather erudite tones, Rob Berkeley of the race think tank, The Runnymede Trust, also historically supportive of multiculturalism, cautioned, “The key things are that we do pursue a shared national identity and some shared common values based on our shared humanity. And we need also to ensure people are treated fairly and their identities are not denigrated or subsumed into some sort of non-identity because that gets rid of all the benefits of diversity.”
All this should sound familiar as we have witnessed an increasing degree of self-imposed segregation by ethnic groups immigrating to America. As mentioned here previously, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center indicates that only 55% of Hispanics living either legally or illegally in this country consider themselves Americans. And another poll of Muslims in Los Angeles County indicated that only 10% of them consider themselves to be Americans. It seems the hyphenation of Americans is another social and cultural divider, rather than a unifier.
Last week Susanne Forrest authored an outstanding editorial that outlined how multiculturalism has worked, and is working, at Idaho State University. To me that piece delineated for all of us how the system should work, featuring inclusion in the mainstream of University life while bringing the best of the foreign students respective cultures with them. I can see why Susanne would consider her life a rich tapestry because of her involvement with those students. Mine is richer too because of such exposure.
However, good things taken to extreme rarely are desirable, whether it’s chocolate, juicy medium-rare steaks, or multiculturalism. Considering Prime Minister Blair belongs to the Labor Party, roughly equivalent to our Democrat party, the declaration is a frank admission of a policy that’s gone too far. Somehow I can’t quite visualize Ted Kennedy or Nancy Pelosi declaring multiculturalism dead in America.
Blair was courageous and far-sighted in reversing a policy that has been splintering British society. Let’s hope that we can prevent such cultural segregation through an inclusive spirit and concomitant actions rather than divisive and exclusive behavior.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.