Cultural diversity in America has been a matter of growing concern…

Amanda Howard
Professor Sloggie
English 327
October, 06 2008
Cultural Diversity in America
Analytical Introduction:
Cultural diversity in America has been a matter of growing concern as one comes across a variety of ethnic and racial groups in the nation. All these different sects have their own unique and diverse cultural heritage. It is a laborious task to have a study on whether the cultural diversity of a nation either unites or divides the nation. One needs to take into account factors like racism, ethnicity, religion, politics, pluralism, assimilation and multiculturalism in order to have a thorough knowledge regarding cultural diversity in America. The author of the Dividing Lines makes it clear that there are “dividing lines-both visible and invisible-everywhere” (Dividing Lines 412). and he goes on to postulate that the very concept of diversity is against human nature. The paper tries to make a probe into the cultural diversity prevalent in America with special reference to the Convergences Cluster Five: Dividing Lines. The aim of this paper is to identify the factors that affect the cultural diversity and cause dividing lines in the American society. The conclusions of the paper are significant not only to my classmates or my instructor; the conclusions drawn have got great significance to all the American citizens who are directly affected by the cultural diversity of the nation as well as to the international community who are eager to know how multiculturalism functions in the United States of America.
The topic of the paper assumes greater significance as it is strictly related to my understanding of the lesson- Convergences Cluster Five: Dividing Lines. The author of the Dividing Lines points out how differences among the various sects in America have contributed to the ‘widespread discrimination and violent conflict’ among the people of America and identifies that the news media have a pivotal role in highlighting public issues that basically stem from the cultural diversity of its citizens. Therefore, special efforts are made by the essayist to bring to light the major ethnic and racial minorities who bring diversity to the nation’s cultural values. Factors like pluralism, assimilation and multiculturalism are elaborately discussed in the essay as they offer keys so as how to tackle the issue under consideration. According to the author, “the ideal of “diversity” depends on affirming differences” and therefore the Americans are “asked to ignore differences, but at the same time to recognize or even celebrate them” (Dividing Lines 413). The essay also focuses on the ‘identity politics’ -“a political position or perspective based on an individual’s identification with a particular group, one typically based on gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation”(Dividing Lines 414).- that has intensified the tensions among various cultural minority groups. The political divide and the segmentation of the American society into the Liberals and the Conservatives have also been discussed in the essay, as it causes yet another Dividing Line in the American society.
The paper also deals with the role played by the ethnic and religious differences among the various groups in enhancing the cultural diversity that dominates the American society. Religion and culture are interrelated and how this relationship has brought about changes in the outlook and cultures of various groups are to be identified. Multiculturalism has been identifies as the salient feature of the American cultural diversity and as the Dividing Line makes it clear, “the dream of diversity is like the dream of equality”, and only when there is freedom for all cultures and equal status for all cultures, can one think of positive fruits of cultural diversity. One should also keep in mind that no victimized or marginalized groups should be there in the nation as there are no superior or inferior humans or cultures.
Cultural Diversity in America
Cultural diversity in America is a by product of the large number of various ethnic, cultural and religious groups who immigrated to the United States either for business purposes or for academic purposes. The immigrant culture and traditions have been instrumental in the formation of the current American society. The Asians, the Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and the Jews have all played significant roles in the formation of the American way of life. One comes across a gradual assimilation of all these immigrant groups to the original Anglo-Protestant culture that was prevalent in the nation. However, it was not so easy for many of the immigrants to get assimilated into the American cultural values and way of life as they had their own unique diverse culture that they valued immensely. Thus the concept of pluralism and assimilation has given way to multiculturalism and multicultural outlook of life.
It is the British settlers who have immensely contributed to the distinct culture of the nation as they brought with them protestant values, individualism, religious fervor and respect for law to the United States of America. However, the assimilation of these diverse groups into the nation has resulted in tensions too. For instance, the Hispanics have concentrated mainly in areas like Texas, Florida, Southern California, New York and Illinois. Most of the Hispanics in America are attracted to the nation because of its “lower taxes, simpler regulations, a judicial system that functions, and a more competent public education system.” (Marco). Jose Maria Marco estimates that almost 9 million Hispanics voted that n the last presidential election compared to 6 million just four years earlier and that they do not apparently support any of the parties. He observes: “The Democratic Party has not been able to retain a solid majority of Hispanics, and according to the polls, the Republican Party obtained around 45% of the Hispanic vote in the last presidential election, versus just 35% in 2000.” (Marco). This growing importance of the Hispanics and other immigrant groups in deciding the political destiny of the nation has prevented the American governments to take policies and measures that harm the immigrated population. On the other hand, the immigrants too have been greatly influenced by the American culture. For instance, many of the second and thirds generations of the American Jews who immigrated to America have gone far away from their ancestral past and moved closer to the American democratic way of life. Thus, “there is a built-in contradiction between a Jewish and democratic state” and every American Jew has “to cope with it and come to grips with it.” (Another Divide: American versus Israeli Jewish Culture). There have been differences of opinion regarding whether it is assimilation of the immigrant cultures to the dominant American culture or multiculturalism that is to be promoted in such a culturally diverse nation as the United States of America. As Larry L. Naylor makes it clear: “In somewhat simplified terms, we find, on the one side, a number of scholars who continue to advocate the ideals of the assimilationist perspective, while another group of scholars reason that we should think in terms of some type of multicultural order if the United States is to begin to resolve the problems and issues associated with the tensions that result from racial and ethnic diversity in the nation (and in the world). If participation in the democratic process is to be meaningful for all groups in the United States, then we must confront racial, ethnic, and special interest diversity in a constructive manner”. (Naylor). While assimilation is likely to create a common culture that is shared by all the citizens of the nation, it is more likely to result in cultural tension among many minorities as they cannot be completely represented during the process of assimilation. This would result in many communities and races being relegated to cultural minority status, which would build unrest and dissatisfaction among such ethnic groups or races. Multiculturalism, on the other hand, can offer solutions to the dominant cultural struggles and tensions that prevail in the American society as it does not provide undue importance to any particular culture or belittle the importance of any particular culture.
Thus, it does not offer scope for superior or inferior cultures and would be suited for an ideal culturally diverse nation.
Douglas George & George Yancey believe that there is an American Dilemma when it comes to the inclusion racial and ethnic groups to the mainstream of the American society. For them, equality of opportunity is to be ensured to all the American citizens irrespective of their color and race and this has emphasized the significance of the promotion of multiculturalism and inters group relations within the nation. To quote the words of the authors, “the integration of minority groups into the mainstream might provide for the equality of all individuals, regardless of their color. Most recently, multiculturalism and its doctrine of equal respect, has emerged as a major theoretical framework for analyzing and resolving inter-group relations.” (George and Yancey). The theories cultural and social pluralism stresses that each of the culturally diverse groups in America do have a right to practice its own traditions, customs, cultures, beliefs and life styles. However, it is essential that all the citizens of the nation share a common national identity of oneness and be united as a whole. Multiculturalism offers equal status to all the cultures and hailed as one of the largest democracies in the world, multiculturalism has special implication for the socio-religious and political life of the nation. A vast number of literature on the cultural diversity in America have pointed out that multiculturalism is built on the doctrine of equal respect and that it recognizes “the contributions of all racial and ethnic groups take place in the field of education, as well as other arenas, and that an emphasis be placed on the importance of maintaining cultural diversity.” (George and Yancey). Multiculturalism, employed effectively, can compensate for the segregation and alienation faced by the ethnic minorities in the nation; it also provides them with the self esteem to be proud of their versatile and unique culture and traditions. However, interracial marriages have become more common in America which underlines the fact that the minorities have been accepted into the American way of life; it also points at the basic principle that there are no superior or inferior races or cultures. Thus, in the American context, the protection and fostering of the cultural diversity of the nation is possible through multicultural outlooks and principles. Every American should be given the freedom to preserve and practice his/her cultural values; respect and tolerance towards other cultures should be instilled in the minds of all the citizens.
The multicultural movements in the American society can be traced back to the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and 1960s. It was the African Americans whose efforts and protests paved way for multicultural education in American high schools and universities. As a result, “Black studies courses became electives in many high schools, a number of universities established courses and programs in Black studies, more Black teachers and University faculty were hired, and publishers put more Black and Brown people in text books.” (Fyfe and Figueroa). Now, leading universities like Stanford, Harvard, University of Minnesota, University of California, and University of Washington have all made ethnic studies part of their graduate and undergraduate curriculum. These changes in the educational scenario also brought about drastic changes in the teaching –learning strategies employed by the teachers in schools. The culture and value systems of the ethnic minorities is quite different from that of the school’s culture, and this cultural difference of the ethnic groups often resulted in lack of proper understanding and care to the ethnic students. Thus, multiculturalism as a potential force that can meet the diverse cultural needs of the citizens of America has led to debates and researches and there have been both supporters and opponents to the theory of multiculturalism. Vincent N. Parrillo, in this respect, observes: “Multiculturalism is taught in academia, debated in government, promoted by ethnic leaders, reported by the media, and discussed among the citizenry. Few are indifferent to a subject with so many proponents and opponents. Some see multiculturalism as the bedrock upon which to build a society of true equality, while others see multiculturalism as a sinkhole that will swallow up the very foundation of American society”. (Parrillo). The question under consideration is whether multiculturalism can ensure cultural equality is debatable even though it can foster and nourish the cultural diversity of the nation.
The constitution of USA offers scope for cultural diversity in the nation as it offers freedom to all the citizens to preserve and maintain the cultural diversity of all the sects in the nation. The political philosophy of the two leading parties in the nation seeks to maintain a cultureless society in America where everyone is provided absoluter liberty to cherish his/her cultural values in such a way so as not to encroach the freedom of others for the same. Both the republicans and the Democrats hold that America does have “have no common culture and no coherent set of traditions” and that it should “give equal freedom to all cultures, traditions and religions.” (Conservatism Part of The Lehrman Lectures on Restoring America’s National Identity). Thus, this indifference to a particular culture is the key to the cultural diversity in America and, no doubt, it is the American democratic way of life that keeps all the diverse cultures in the nation under the same roof.
Religion and culture are closely related as many of the cultural values cherished by the various ethnic and racial minorities in America have their roots in religious beliefs and values. The cultural value of a nation has a lot to do with its religious heritage and traditions. Similarly, in the American context, the relationship between religion and politics is yet another determinant of the cultural diversity of its citizens. Ralph Clark Chandler, in this respect, observes that there is difference in the conservative and liberal view of values and life styles which causes social division in the American society and its commonly shared cultural values.
Conservatives stress the importance of traditional values: religion, marriage and family, discipline, heterosexual behavior, and opposition to abortion and gay sexuality. Liberals stress the value of choice and diversity in every area of life, including religion, family, and sexual lifestyles. Each perspective’s supporters are sharply critical of the other’s. They are struggling for dominance, and the division between them cuts across traditional lines in American life. (Chandler 179).
This division makes the different religious sects in the nation to take sides with either of the views shared by conservatives or liberals. Thus, one can notice that there is an apparent support to the conservatives by the Catholics whereas the liberal Protestants, liberal Catholics, Jews and secular elites tend to share the liberal outlooks. However, all these religious sects do share some common Christian values, even though they are divided on certain values. This status quo also adds to the cultural diversity of United States of America as a single nation.
To conclude, it is the cultural diversity of the nation that makes it stand unites as a powerful nation. Even though there are cultural differences one understands that the democracy in the nation is so powerful that it promotes multiculturalism in the nation and it is the responsibility of the media to instill feelings of respect and tolerance for the other cultures in the minds of its citizens. However, it is pathetic to note that the media very often highlight racial and ethnic issues in such a way that it creates racial hatred and ill feeling among various cultures. As it is made clear in the Dividing Line, “The news media, which for the most part today, frame the public issues, thrive on high drama and conflict: men versus women, black versus white, poor versus rich, gay versus straight, religious versus secular, blue color versus elite, human versus non-human. Every story must have a conflict, and the more that conflict can be personalized-portrayed by individuals who instantly personify the various news –the better. Public discourse is reduced to extreme expression and accusation, as nuanced or moderate views find little air time”. Instead, the media of the nation should try to foster a feeling of oneness among all these culturally diverse groups and as the author suggests multiculturalism is the right “corrective response to the exclusionary practices of the past” (Dividing Lines 413).
Works Cited
Dividing Lines. Convergences Cluster Five.
Marco, Jose Maria. Hispanic Immigration And Assimilation Into The American Culture. Hispanic American Center For Economic Research. 2001. 2 Oct. 2008. .
Another Divide: American versus Israeli Jewish Culture. News Release. 1996. 2 Oct. 2008. .
Naylor , Larry L. Cultural Diversity in the United States. Bergin & Garvey. Westport, 1997
Yancey, George., and George, Douglas. Taking Stock of America’s Attitudes on Cultural Diversity: An Analysis of Public Deliberation on Multiculturalism, Assimilation and Intermarriage, Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 2004.
Fyfe,Alec., and Figueroa, Peter M. E. Education for Cultural Diversity: The Challenge for a New Era. Routledge, 1993.
Parrillo, Vincent N. Is Multicularism A Threat: Part 1. 2008. 2 Oct. 2008. .
Ceaser, James W. Creed Versus Culture: Alternative Foundations of American
Conservatism Part of The Lehrman Lectures on Restoring America’s National Identity. Heritage Foundation: Leadership for America. 2006. 2 Oct. 2008. .
Chandler, Ralph Clark. Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices, Public Administration Review Publication Information. 1999.

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