Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Been a Bad Weekend for Multiculturalism

At least, that's the conclusion I reached after reading two articles, one in the Times, one in the Post, neither of which usually look approvingly on policies of assimilation. The first one has the more serious topic of honor killings and pro-9/11 demonstrations in the impoverished suburbs of Berlin. The second one has the funnier topic of the Red Cross apologizing to various ethnic pressure groups for saving their constituents' lives in Gulf Coast states hit by hurricane Katrina. The most striking thing about the article is the complete absence of any demonstration of how insufficiently multicultural hiring by the Red Cross led to avoidable deaths or property damage. Instead you get complaints like this:
In large Red Cross shelters, where most volunteers were white, the mostly minority evacuees 'felt like they were being herded like cattle.'
Or this:
"Black people were offended that Red Cross volunteers running the Astrodome facility in Houston wore latex gloves."
The one semi-serious complaint in this article is that a lack of translators limited the ability of the Red Cross to understand what immigrant victims of Katrina were saying to them. Given that this problem stems from two failings of immigrant communities - insufficient English education, and very low rates of volunteering at charitable institutions like the Red Cross - groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus might want to reevaluate their support for better assimilationist policies (which at this point probably means stricter border control and more aggressive deportation of illegal immigrants to diminish the incentives to remain fluent in only a non-English language) rather than berate the Red Cross for alleged insensitivities. Of course, given that the raison d'etre for most ethnic advocacy groups is that their ethnicities are and always will be distinct blocs in American society, they may find a bit of a contradiction there.

Despite some policy failings, immigration and assimilation proceed fairly well in this country, a fact one can always be reminded of by looking at Western Europe. I think the Times article diagnoses the problem pretty accurately (it's a magazine piece, and thus more opinionated than their regular reporting) as being the multiculturalist approach to immigration taken for the past few decades. However, given that most in the German political class seem to support a continuation of these policies, it's hard to see where change will come from.


At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah, the Red Cross is amusing. But:

Do you really expect populations that work longer, harder days with less free time to lolly-gag to have that many contributions to charitable organizations? Further, do you expect learning a second language to be easy for everybody? Or is insufficient English education really a failing of the immigrant community, or just something some people have to live with trying to support their families in other countries. Damn your conservative tomfoolery! C'mon Nick.



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