Possibly one of the interesting matters about the multicultural society debate in Europe is that some don’t grasp what it means or implies.
If we look at the etymology of the word, everyone knows that multi derives from the word multus, meaning many or much. Defining culture is a bit more complex. For the sake of simplicity, let’s define it as anything learned.
What is multiculturalism, then? A good definition is provided by countries that aim to promote multiculturalism, like Canada:
Canadian multiculturalism is fundamental to our belief that all citizens are equal. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives Canadians a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures. The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding, and discourages ghettoization, hatred, discrimination and violence.
Through multiculturalism, Canada recognizes the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs.
While such a definition gives the impression that we live in “cultural compartments” and meet in some neutral place like equals, the interesting question to ask is if it’s possible to create a just multicultural society where all are respected as equals?
Possibly we should, however, pose the following question to seek an answer: What kind of a society would we build if we didn’t uphold such values and instead promoted racism, segregation and ghtettoization?
Answer: We’d build a pretty lousy nation.