multiculturalism in the canadian state

jnstewart at jnstewart at
Mon Nov 22 23:52:54 MST 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: Craven, Jim <jcraven at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Monday, November 22, 1999 7:00 PM
Subject: RE: multiculturalism in the canadian state

> Hi Jim and others,
> No I didn't catch any of the threads given below that may have sparked
> response; my response was to the general concept of "multiculturalism" and
> merely noted that like anything else, it depends upon how and by whom it
> defined and of course how and by whom and in whose interest the concept is
> operationalized.

    When education people get talking about muslticulturalism I like to ask
if they think that all cultures deserve equal respect and they always say
that, yes, of course, all are equal of respect.  The I ask them if that
includes the cultures of some middle eastern nations where male literacy is
nearly universal and female literacy is nearly nil and they say, well,
that's different.  I then like to ask them if includes the culture os some
of my North Florida students who seemed to honstly believe that, as they put
it, niggfers are just not up to our standards.  Education people hasten to
exclude these cultures, perfectly valid cultures from an anthropological
standpoint and perfectly representative of strong traditions.
    It is to be observed that education people tend to disparage the culture
of adolescent males if it includes a positive value on conflict and trials
of strength.  They disallolw cultures that hold one group above another,
withthe interesting exception of Jewish culture in which the Jewish people
are often regrded as the chosen of God.  Theu, obviously, multiculturalism
is a selective process of valuing certain cultures over others.
    In an educational setting I see no problem with this.  It seems that the
school is one place where we ought to be advocating a coherent set of
values.  We should, however, be honest about it and not cloak things in too
much palaver about the equality of all cultures.
    It is not entirely clear to me how this works out on a class basis,
however.   Clearly the public school culture tends to be based ona liberal
humanistic philosoph advocating bourgeois liberalism, but it doesn't weem to
quite line up along class lines.  Perhaps this is simply due to the
vagueness of class consciousness in this country.

> And we can all get ultra-sensitive and politically correct at times. For
> example I as an enrolled Blackfoot Indian deeply resent the term used
> "Native American".

    I find that my Creek friends tend to use the term Indian unless their
speech is overtly political.  I find that the term Native American is an
interesting rhetorical trope intended to claim a sort of primacy that is
historically factual, but culturally problematic.  I assume that I am a
native American because my cultural background is quite distictively related
to the Appalacians and the mid-west with admixtures of various ethnicities.
This comes from nowhere else and is distictively American.   Australians
always assumed that I was American with the implied meaning that I was
native to that land.
    I also find that pan-indian implication of general terms such as native
American to be problematic.  I don't believe that the Creeks and the Navajo
thought of themselve as a single people in any sense until the folks from
elsewhere took over.  Pan indianism strikes me as akin to some sort of pan
Europeanism in which it would be assumed that there were no significant
differences amon, say, the Russians, the Spanish, the Irish, and the
Hungarians.  All these peoples could get together and have a little Orthodox
liturgy with protestant hyms and Roman vestmants while the Irish
demonstrated prayer.  It seems to be an odd notion.

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