I’m going to barf if one more person writes that “multiculturalism” has somehow contributed to the riots in France. How exactly you square â€œmulticulturalismâ€ with Franceâ€™s ban on the headscarf â€“ and the fact that French is, officially, about as un-multicultural as you can get â€“ is beyond me.
If you ask me, Iâ€™d hazard to say itâ€™s a complete and utter lack of multiculturalism that had created the situation we have now.
(I notice the previous post, by Matt Turner, makes essentially the same point. Sorry for that, but I’m plowing ahead since Iâ€™d already begun writing this. By now, regular readers wonâ€™t see this as a surprising new take, but it needs to be said loudly and clearly.)
Perhaps the best rebuttal I’ve seen comes from The Times (thanks to Bob in the comments section), which argues that â€œa colour-blind policy has fed Muslim radicalism.â€
Some, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the iconoclastic Interior Minister who is at the centre of the present crisis, have provoked outrage by saying that France should copy aspects of the Anglo-American model, starting with policies to favour the entry of ethnic minorities into education and jobs. M de Villepin slapped down M Sarkozy last week for promoting dangerous â€œun-Frenchâ€ ideas that could encourage the Muslim extremism that has recently infected Britain.
Un-French, indeed, but hardly dangerous.
Multiculturalism is an old bogeyman, especially on the American right, where many equate it with military appeasement, the inability to distinguish separate right from wrong, soccer, and sodomy. (All things conveniently associated by the American right with France, as well.)
Surely this isnâ€™t a uniquely American misconception, but as an American myself, Iâ€™m sensitive to the idea that somehow thatâ€™s the source of all the confusion.
So, if youâ€™re determined to view the riots in France through an American lens, try to imagine an America in which Rosa Parks had quiescently moved to the back of the bus, in which there had been no civil rights movement, no attempt â€“ through affirmative action and yes, through â€œmulticulturalismâ€ â€“ to allow the descendents of slaves to feel and act like theyâ€™re as American as the rest of us. Imagine an America where racial tension had simmered for years, unaddressed; where W.E.B. Duboisâ€™s â€œcolor lineâ€ was as sharp now as it was at the turn of the 20th century.
Itâ€™s hard to see how the problem is â€œmulticulturalism,â€ which is commonly understood to mean an awareness of cultural differences. The problem is Franceâ€™s failed attempt to efface those differences.