Racism and the Rise of Multiculturalism Term Paper

Pages: 8 (3095 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Race

Racism and the Rise of Multiculturalism: Progress or Pitfall?

The one absolute certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities. We have but one flag. We must also learn one language and that language is English.-Theodore Roosevelt

Gribbin 29)

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door. EMMA LAZARUS (the New Colossus: Inscription for the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor)

Potter ii)

Within the foundation of this nation are several concepts that have become fodder for propaganda that builds a case for social diversity and at the same time contradicts the actions of the collective nation and the feelings of many individuals, about race and diversity. Conflicts over race are as old as the nation itself and the debate seems everlasting as some social reformists lay the groundwork for inclusion and multiculturalism while others still fight the hard fight for assimilation and racial dominance of the majority culture, which in the United States has consistently been the white English speaking culture.

Schmidt, 1997, pgs. 1-2) the United States will consistently and effectively develop answers to the debate concerning multiculturalism as a product of necessity and not surprisingly because of its continued and growing diversity.

The 1990s proved to be one of the most strikingly public eras for social conflict based on race and events during the 90s seemed to add more fuel to the fire on both sides. With one side saying we haven't come far enough in the bid to establish a multicultural society, a melting pot, and the other side saying we have conceded to much in that direction and that is why there is so much crime, violence and destruction. The overriding principle in both arguments is that tension exists, often racially motivated and occasionally comes to a boiling point that is dramatically displayed in the public eye, allowing all to form opinions and eventually express those opinions in the debate, in both a public and an individual manner.

Some examples of this conflict are the revolutionary response to the 1991 Rodney King beating and subsequent LA riots, the 1994 O.J. Simpson trial, which divided the nation on racial grounds, the passing of California's propositions 187 in 1994 and 209 in 1996 which attempted to change the immigration situation in California. Additionally, the growing national movement to establish English as the official language of the states and nation, to attempt to force immigrants to assimilate is an example of the multicultural backlash, and of coarse the Patriot Act, a piece of highly debated national security legislation that will likely continue to trouble the nation in its complexity and its bid to keep America safe without infringing on the civil liberties of its population. Each one of these events and issues demonstrate the challenges and conflicts that often arise in a culture with an unequal balance of power, and especially if the perception associated with an unequal power distribution is based on racial distinctions.

There are few truths that are clearer than the existence of such a situation in the United States. Race determines economics, personal daily interactions, social standing and a cascading number of other issues that individuals as well as entire cultures deal with. In a statement made by a leading expert on race and discrimination the point was well made that, "in a society structured on racial hierarchy, a 'valorization of whiteness,' as Cheryl I. Harris terms it, may inform even the most routine of social and economic exchanges." (Wald, 2000, p. 3) it is the unequal distribution of power that is being responded to in situations such as the Rodney King beating, trial and the resulting race riots in Los Angeles. The period beginning in March of 1991, with the massive media repetition of the video clips associated with the Rodney King beating and then the resulting riot behavior mark a period in U.S. history that is dark. It reflects other periods, where race was at the forefront of the minds of individuals, such as during the reformation, following the civil war and during the socially destructive Jim Crow era were segregation was officially sanctioned in a majority of the states in the U.S. Though these pictures are vivid in the memories of the people who lived through those times the resurrection of the backlash of open and subtle racism in the form of video footage played over and over on national and local television is a striking example of the manner in which a social issue can become an issue that is discussed among everyone who does not live under a rock.

The first videotape, taken on March 3, 1991, by an amateur cameraman who had been awakened after midnight by sirens and the noise from a police helicopter, is of the King incident. It shows uniformed officers swarming around a large man who writhes on the ground and attempts to rise, but is clubbed and kicked into submission while other policemen watch with folded arms. The second video, shot from a news helicopter hovering over the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues during the riots a year later, shows the driver of a cement truck, Reginald Denny, being dragged from his cab by neighborhood toughs, then kicked and smashed in the head with a brick until he lies near death while one of his assailants does a jig.

Lou Cannon, 1999, p. xix)

Rodney King, was black and the man killed in the backlash video, filmed after the Rodney King trial when most of the officials involved were absolved from responsibility, Reginald Denny was a white man, "His only crimes were to be on the wrong street at the wrong time and to be white." (Lou Cannon, 1999, p. 306) According to public opinion the knee jerk reaction to the violence that had ensued against King and the subsequent court decisions mostly absolving the police offered the public no appeasement for the brutality.

There was not "enough gray area in the verdicts," Cecil Murray would say later, to persuade blacks to respond rationally. In fact, there was no gray area at all. As South Central viewed the judgment at Simi Valley, white jurors had justified the beating of a black man by white police officers. (Lou Cannon, 1999, p. 262)

The racial lines drawn by the situations, both superficially and deeply, encompass ideals that are not being met, by anyone and countless excuses and explanations that do not stand up to the ideas of our culture. In a comprehensive study of power, May concludes sadly that, "Violence comes from powerlessness, as I have said; it is the explosion of impotence." (May, 1972, p. 53) This is one truth that can be argued by both opposing views as the dominant culture fears the perceived loss of power associated with multiculturalism and minorities foresee facing decades more of racially motivated decisions being made for them and about them by the dominant culture.

A similar situation occurred when the nation divided along racial lines during the public representation of the OJ Simpson trials, first the public criminal trial and second the public civil trial.

A the trials provided for discussion of issues that divide the public and, as a result, have forced the public to reflect on these otherwise hidden issues. The primary divisive issue revealed by the Simpson cases is the racial divide in America. Frank Rich, columnist for the New York Times, wrote that "for two-and-a-half years, the O.J. case has been a grotesque but nonetheless piercing alarm telling us that there is a racial gap so wide in this country that most white and black Americans view the exact same events, not to mention our civic institutions, in exactly opposite ways" (1997, February 12, p. A 8). (Schuetz & Lilley, 1999, p. 3)

The OJ Simpson trials, as most of us remember demonstrated a social divide that had been in the recent past overshadowed by attempts at inroads toward the ideals of multiculturalism, inclusion and diversity. Yet, the actions of all involved in both the Rodney King beating, subsequent riots and the OJ Simpson trials prove that all the mantras in the world, associated with the acceptance of cultural diversity are simply superficial and many believe attempts to cover, or ignore rather than root out real solutions, regardless of their prolific nature. (Schmidt, 1997, p. 9)

Racism and racial disparities are repeatedly reiterated by national movements that attempt solutions but are often respective of only one or the other side of the divide. An example of this is the more current passing of Propositions, 187 and 209 in California.

Both Treverton and Miller et al. address specifically the highly contentious and often divisive issues surrounding Proposition 187 in 1994,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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