Multiculturalism and “White Anxiety”admin / January 23, 2019
Almost 6 decades ago, the “separate but equal” doctrine was declared to be unconstitutional after the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education (Martin 121) took place. It could seem that this would put an end to segregation and racism in education and other fields of the society’s life.
However, the course of time has demonstrated that the path from “separate but equal” to “united and equal” is quite long and not so simple. The issue of ethnicity and race is still burning for our society, and it gives broad field for work for the national and local powers and educators in terms of decision-making, as well as for scholars in terms of study.
The notion of multiculturalism is not an exception: being at first perceived as the answer for all questions about cultures and their co-existence, nowadays it is also awakens scholars’ hot discussion. Particularly, Ronald Takaki in (2001 3-18) marks that there is the evident hostility and resistance to the concept of multiculturalism in education and other fields.
Takaki provides a neat explanation to this resistance: the white community is afraid of the “non-White majority (12) that is gradually taking shape in the society in the 21th century. As they are eager to stay the majority, says Takaki, they suppress the advancement of multiculturalism ideas in the society and, particularly, in education. Considering the importance of education in forming the personality of future members of our society, this statement is of big significance.
Today we have opportunity to discuss whether the situation has changed during the last 10 years, after Takaki’s publication. Despite the situation with the “resentment” of the white community has changed significantly, there are still many steps left to take on the way to “united and equal”.
There is no need to reject the fact that when the “status” of a majority is challenged, it meets the new situation with resistance. We may see numerous examples in history of the USA, as well as the World history. For example, when racial segregation in schools was declared illegal, this was met with resistance by white students and even by the local powers of some states.
We may also think about the history of colonial Africa: in South Africa, Afrikaners and British white colonists were in a perpetual struggle, and the indigenous population was suffering from it (Chazan 469-471); then, when the native South Africans declared their rights and began the struggle for their rights, the white community also strongly resisted to this movement (473-476).
Can we state that these appeals have disappeared today? To some extend, this turns out to be true. The American society is moving towards elimination of racial discrimination and of opposition of ethnical and racial communities. This can be noticed in decision-making fulfilled by the local and national powers, as well as in the field of education.
The courses of Ethnicity Studies are introduced in all educational establishments of the USA. Many people believe that “the diversity of younger generations of Americans will inevitably lead to a more integrated, postracial era” (Rodriguez). However, unfortunately, it is still early to speak about dominance of the concept of multiculturalism in our society.
As many notice, racism in education remains “unconscious” (Samuels) and “unintentional” (Kuznia). Kuznia describes the case when a Latino girl was given an advice by her counselor to enter a college after the school instead of a 4-year university program; the most important is that the counselor’s intentions were good.
Other examples are offered: a teacher remembers white students’ names but does not manage to remember those of Latino students; students of color are asked simpler questions due to the “achievement gap” that gives birth to stereotyping (Kuznia). To improve the situation, it is necessary to direct efforts towards detecting and disclosing the stereotypes and prejudices that exist in the society about races and ethnicities.
One more issue that is often omitted is the multidirectional anxiety based on the racial and ethnical issues. Today, we should keep focus broader than discussing one-direction anxiety, which is discrimination of blacks and other communities of color by whites. We may recollect the Williams v. California case (2000): schools where the majority of students were children of minorities were not provided with appropriate books and conditions for learning (Kuznia).
However, we may think about another case, which is Gratz v. Bollinger (2003): white students filed a suit stating that the application system of the University of Michigan includes the affirmation program that supports students of minorities regardless of applicants’ academic performance (Kaplan and Saccuzzo 574); the court admitted that the program was unconstitutional.
Or, we can compare the whites’ anxiety described by Takaki with that demonstrated by the minorities of color, “If they [Anglos] don’t like Mexicans, they ought to go back to Europe” (Mallon).
The fact that cultural gaps work in different directions demonstrates the importance of studying others’ cultures by all communities. Besides, now it is time to think about the roots of such opposition in order to direct efforts towards their elimination.
These roots are in lack of knowledge and understanding of other communities’ cultures. Despite African-American, Asian and other ethnical studies are introduced, they may sometimes be quite ineffective because of the way they are taught. Samuels (Samuels) shares his discovery that students are taught Ethical Studies in an “academic” and generalized manner; they often feel uncomfortable when they are encouraged to express their own opinion and discuss the matters.
In turn, learning cultures in small classes where students have opportunity to discuss the material is very effective: students understand cultures better, and this issue becomes more important for them; Samuels uses the term “personal engagement”.
Increasing students’ “personal engagement” is very important for our society, as Takaki and many other authors (for example, Rodriguez) state that turning of the white majority into a minority will also aggravate the opposition between communities: whites will begin the active “struggle” for their interests.
As for California, Rodriguez marks that “Anglos dropped below 50% of the population there in 2000” (Rodriguez), which is quite eloquent; however, the author says that “With so-called minorities outnumbering whites, mainstream politicians have been reluctant to endorse any initiative that would invite a backlash from nonwhites” (Rodriguez); the situation in California is better than in some other states.
Thus, it is very important for politicians to take the position that will not awaken either whites’ or nonwhites’ backlash, as well as it is important for us all to learn and understand each others’ cultures. Only in this case we will come to the destination, which is the society where the “united and equal” doctrine dominates.
Chazan, Naomi, et al. Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa. 3rd ed. USA: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999. Print.
Kaplan, Robert M. and Dennis P. Saccuzzo. Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, and Issues. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.
Kuznia, Rob. “Racism in Schools: Unintentional but no Less Damaging.” Miller-McCune. Miller-McCune.Com, 8 April 2009. Web. 9 December 2010.
Mallon, Patrick. “California’s Racial Iceberg.” News Max. NewsMax.Com, 28 June 2003. Web. 9 December 2010.
Martin, Waldo E. Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998. Print.
Rodriguez, Gregory. “The White Anxiety Crisis.” Time. Time.Com, 11 March 2010. Web. 9 December 2010.
Samuel, Bob. “Unconscious Racism at the University of California.” The Huffington Post. huffingtonPost.Com, 9 March 2010. Web. 9 December 2010.
Takaki, Ronald. “Multiculturalism: Battleground or Meeting Ground?” Color-Line to Borderlands: The Matrix of American Ethnic Studies. Ed. Johnnella E. Butler. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001. Print.