Why Multi-Culturalism Fails

In a fascinating article about the failure of multi-culturalism, Yahoo News writes:

“French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Thursday that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

‘My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure,’ he said in a television interview when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.

‘Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want… a society where communities coexist side by side.

‘If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France,” the right-wing president said.

‘The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women… freedom for little girls to go to school,’ he said.

‘We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,’ Sarkozy said in the TFI channel show.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia’s ex-prime minister John Howard and Spanish ex-premier Jose Maria Aznar have also recently said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants.

Merkel in October said efforts towards multiculturalism in Germany had ‘failed, totally.’

The prime minister, who took power in May 2010, argued that ‘under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.'”

Read the rest of the article here.

The way these leaders described mult-culturalism sounds a bit like a less brutal form of state-mandated segregation since they “different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”

Now, they seem to indicate they will mandate an integration plan.

I am not a sociologist or anthropologist, but that doesn’t sound like it will work either. They sound a bit like Michael Scott on the The Office or Stephen Colbert when they insist the best way to handle a diverse world is by not seeing color at all.

Rather than a state-mandated strategy, what would happen if these highly conservative Europeans began to have Muslims or Nigerians over for dinner? What if they naturally reached out to connect with people from different cultures? What if loving, serving, and influencing those around us (no matter from what culture they came) became the norm? What if these government leaders found the pockets of society where diversity is working and highlight that?

The culture may become a bit more mixed with all sides influencing the others, but isn’t there something beautiful in that?

What solutions can you see working?

Showing 9 comments
  • dave gibbons

    eric, this is where third culture comes in! http://3culture.tv
    it’s not about losing your cultural essence rather affirming it and at the same time adapting to any given context w/an attitude to love, learn and serve.

  • Eric Bryant

    Wonderful resource, Dave! I couldn’t agree more!

  • Josh Davis

    Great thoughts, Eric! Also, we should never underestimate the power of the “fringes” of societies/cultures. Many times, the artistic people of a society end up on the fringes (not part of the “core culture”) yet tend to be able to influence greatly. We have found that connecting artists of one culture with artists of another culture can be a powerful way to affect change.

  • Julie Kinnear

    Le Pen finally gone, Sarkozy seems to be leaning toward his radical ideas which I understand as a perfect tactic to gain more support as the presidential election is approaching.

  • Derrick Engoy

    Thanks for this Eric. BTW…although we never got a chance to hang out, beyond our virtual conversations and our one in person meet up at a Sharefest meeting, I feel as if a good friend had moved away and am missing those late night talk session.

    Oh would could have been.

    Anyway…our church is on the brink of adopting another campus that lies on the opposite spectrum of how we approach “ministry”. We have become a church that looks to intensionally embrace the community in which we’ve been planted in and work to serve said community. The church we’re adopting has solely been about taking care of what they have…common with a lot of immigrant…1st generation movements.

    The tension is fusing the two cultures into one movement. The beauty is you have two cultures to fuse into one movement.

    The challenge is taking the best of both…and even the faults…and creating a fresh chapter for the two campuses.

    What are your thoughts on this dynamic and how can we truly move towards creating something beautiful?

    • Eric Bryant

      That is a challenge, Derrick.

      My first thought is to make sure that the mission is what unites both groups. Cause can create community. I never truly understood the word “fellowship” until “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.” The cause united creatures that hated each other. “Fellowship” is also translated as “partnership in the Gospel” in Philippians 1:5. Fellowship isn’t just what believers do for each other, but it is also what we do together for the world.

      Keep pointing towards the end goal of reaching people, serving people, and helping people grow. That may be the way to help both groups work together. Celebrate and highlight when the right things are happening and invest most in those who are most invested in the vision and others. Keep us posted!

  • Johnny Laird

    Hey Eric

    Appreciate your posts – as ever.

    One of the things I find strange about the current dismissal of multiculturalism is that it is somehow defined by detractors as a kind of social experiment or governmental construct, when largely it’s just a fact of life; or at least that’s my personal experience.

    Coming from the UK – which has been a mix of cultures for thousands of years – as a kid, my school years were spent in classrooms filled with friends from Italy, Poland, Ireland, India, the Caribbean…the list could go on and on. We learned together, played together and drew on elements of each other’s backgrounds to form part of what we have become – culturally – as adults.

    Now I live with my mixed family*, bouncing around one of the most diverse cities on the planet (London, England), sharing time and space with friends & cohorts from around the planet. We are more blended and connected than some are prepared to acknowledge, but that is every bit a result of natural and organic relationship building as any scheme or political missives from above. Life happens; we meet, we engage and connect on all kinds of levels.

    *(and blended families/mixed kids are a dynamic and growing part of the overall demographic all over the West)

    I remain optimistic that we continue to move in the right direction, despite those who’d wish to make political capital out of the fears and reservations of some.

    There are a few musings on this area here:

    http://www.johnnylaird.net/2010/06/socially-diverse/
    http://www.johnnylaird.net/2009/06/built-on-immigration-invasion-inclusion-and-adaption/
    http://www.johnnylaird.net/2010/08/london-social-diversity/
    http://www.johnnylaird.net/2008/05/identity/

    Love all, serve all…as they say at the Hard Rock Cafe! 😉

    J

    • Eric Bryant

      Great insights, Johnny! Thanks for sharing your story.

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