multiculturalism in the canadian state

James M. Blaut 70671.2032 at SPAMcompuserve.com
Tue Nov 23 00:43:23 MST 1999



Jim Craven and list:

I can't figure out how this discussion came to focus on the word
"multi-cultural" when it was brought in by Joao to defend statements that
are -- I will express it delicately -- unflattering to East Timorese,
statements whhich he defended with an indignant shout about my "politically
correct" "multi-culturalism," clearly meaning that, if Jim Blaut  objects
to the use of words like "blind obediance"  to characterize Timorese
culture, then Jim Blaut approves of female circumcision and generally sees
no defects in the Third World.

In my own experience, "multicultural" has always been used by progressive
people in a positive sense. It seems to be a defensive stance against
racism. In universities, I have always seen it used as a defense of any
program or faculty or student body in which Third world people have managed
to get any little bit of space, under attack in the present reactionary
period of increased repression.  I have the impression that the word
"diversity" is also used by progressive people. Both are very mild, very
liberal terms tnat are used in discourse that tries to  convince average
white Americans that things like affirmative action, Latino Studies
programs, etc., are matters of "fairness."  If I've gotten the wrong idea
about the way these terms are used, fine. I'll have learned something.

Now, Jim, about the term "Native American." I will use either "Indian" or
"Native American" if I get signals that one or the other is accepted by the
people to whom this continent belongs. Twenty years ago  there was
objection to the term "Indian," even though the word was in the American
Indian Movement's name, so I started using "Native American." If I should
use "Indian" again, I will, gladly.

This is not an idle question, listers. Puerto Ricans in the diaspora are
not "Neuricans" (a made-up word putting together "Nuevo York" and "Puerto
Rican," and used mainly by assimilationists as a synonym for Puerto
Rican-American). They are Puerto Ricans. In the Puerto Rican Socialist
Party (no longer in existence) we worked closely with various progressive
sectors of the Mexicano-Chicano movement, and the term they should use for
themselves was, probably still is, a very serious question. "Chicano" had
loaded meanings relating to history, culture, and politics, and some wanted
to use it while others insisted on "Mexicano." "Mexicano-Chicano" was often
used to deal with this problem among progressive people of this community.
I don't recall progressives until recently using "Mexican-American" but now
it is common in universities in spite of its baggage of assimilationist
meanings (notably consigning Mexicano-Chicano people to the status of
hyphenated Americans, just like the Irish-Americans, the Italian-Americans,
and all those other *oppressed* European immigrant communities), probably
because in the present reactionary period the Mexicano community faces less
discrimination from Anglos when they describe themselves this way. A while
back, a racist geographer,an Anglo, published a paper claiming that the
Mexican-origin people of New Mexico are not Chicanos and not Mexicanos. He
called themm "Hispanos", making up his own term for the community (this is
very career-building, as anthropologists have known for a long time), and
he  introduced a map of "the Hispano Homeland.". He became the authority on
the Hispano Homeland and Subculture (subculture of Americans, that is). A
Mexicano historian and I ripped the shit out of him in a reply.

This problem of names that oppressed comunities will accept to designate
themselves is widespread. The ozzies on this list probably can enlighten us
about the rejection of the term "Australian Aborigine," and -- am I right?
-- its replacemenbt with "Native Australian." Recall the racist "Bushmen"
and "Hottentots." And so forth.

For people of other communitiers, the obligation is to use whatever terms
the people in  question want you to use in  describing or addressing them.

I've phrased these remakrs as carefully as I can so as not to start any
flame war on the national question. If someone starts one, I won't rise to
the bait.

En lucha

Jim Blaut









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