Multiculturalism as a Positive Value
Some groups in the United States and Canada do not value multiculturalism: Their ideologies promote the alternative of one unified culture as the only means toward empowerment. All external groups are considered alien to their values. Thus the controversy of whether a melting-pot model or a multicultural model is better for the health of a nation is extended to groups. Within groups the value of the multicultural model is debated. African Americans, for example, are faced with competing ideologies of integration and of separatism. In Canada, the province of Quebec has attempted to continue its French Canadian heritage, language, religion, and values partly through restricting the use of the other major language of the country, English, and partly through demanding that Quebec have a special political status within Canada. In Canada and the United States, Native American groups have sometimes rejected multiculturalism, especially through legal claims to ownership of lands that were taken by white settlers and national governments. Multiculturalism in North America, therefore, is one interpretation of the larger societies’ cultural pluralism, but is not necessarily valued by parts of the populations of those societies.
In the book Valuing Diversity: New Tools for a New Reality (1995), authors Lewis Griggs and Lente-Louise Louw argue that there are very practical reasons for encouraging multicultural attitudes when pluralism is present. These include resolving conflicts in organizations as participants learn to appreciate cultural differences, the development of leadership that is open toward the varieties of persons and cultures present in groups and organizations led, the provision of a group environment that promotes sensitivity toward differences and results in better functionality, an acknowledgement of the reality of pluralisms through encouraging specific learning about what is different from each group participant’s own culture, and the strengthening or empowering of groups and organizations by showing members the value of their diversity. Such policies allow each participant to feel positive about contributing from his or her cultural perspective.
Voices of Diversity (1994), by Sandra Slipp and Renee Blank, shows how a group’s multicultural attitudes can positively affect specific life areas such as the workplace. Multiculturalism, therefore, is not only a theoretical perspective for scholars as they interpret groups and societies. Multiculturalism is a very practical attitude and approach that is encouraged by many economic, social, and political leaders seeking to increase the functionality of businesses, educational, social, and governmental groups.