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Since I have been talking about religion and identity a certain amount recently, I feel like I should probably offer up my definitions of multiculturalism.
I see multiculturalism as four separate but related phenonema under the same name:
1. Statement of fact: we, in the West, live in societies where a variety of world cultures are present, with varying degrees of intermixture.
2. Basic approach to life and difference: a curiosity about other people and places, and a basic gentlemanly respect for these differences. Going to different types of restaurants, travelling, decorating your house with different sorts of artifacts.
3. Bureaucratic process: the process of making corporations and government bureaucracies more diverse in order to better reflect the community/nation/world.
4. Mystical force: Multiculturalism as a systematic view of the world, where the principle that trumps all others is 'embracing diversity'. Informed by a mystical sense of ethnic, religious, and sexual diversity as a good thing in and of itself.
For me, it is only number four that I object to, because I find it to be anti-individual. By reducing people to a walking bag of demographic checkmarks you deny them autonomy over their own approaches to life. This approach also encourages the most insular, conservative types within minority communities to put themselves forwards as spokesmen because it encourages communitarian viewpoints. It also assigns moral bonus points to people based on their background. While it is nice to know different kinds of people, there is no moral difference between my friends who are white and my friends who aren't white - they are all individuals and I like them each for individual reasons.