The Failure of Multiculturalism by Kenan Malik
April 15, 2015 8:25 PM   Subscribe

The Failure of Multiculturalism - Community Versus Society in Europe
Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw multiculturalism—the embrace of an inclusive, diverse society—as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today, a growing number consider it to be a cause of them.
How did this transformation come about? According to multiculturalism’s critics, Europe has allowed excessive immigration without demanding enough integration—a mismatch that has eroded social cohesion, undermined national identities, and degraded public trust. Multiculturalism’s proponents, on the other hand, counter that the problem is not too much diversity but too much racism.


But the truth about multiculturalism is far more complex than either side will allow, and the debate about it has often devolved into sophistry. Multiculturalism has become a proxy for other social and political issues: immigration, identity, political disenchantment, working-class decline. Different countries, moreover, have followed distinct paths. The United Kingdom has sought to give various ethnic communities an equal stake in the political system. Germany has encouraged immigrants to pursue separate lives in lieu of granting them citizenship. And France has rejected multicultural policies in favor of assimilationist ones. The specific outcomes have also varied: in the United Kingdom, there has been communal violence; in Germany, Turkish communities have drifted further from mainstream society; and in France, the relationship between the authorities and North African communities has become highly charged. But everywhere, the overarching consequences have been the same: fragmented societies, alienated minorities, and resentful citizenries.

posted by Golden Eternity (86 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
By the author of Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate.
posted by Artw at 8:41 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


From an American perspective:

... In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities....

Putnam, Robert D. "E pluribus unum: Diversity and community in the twenty‐first century the 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture." Scandinavian political studies 30.2 (2007): 137-174.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:41 PM on April 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Still reading the article, but I think Doug Saunders' Arrival City and Myth of the Muslim Tide are useful correctives to stinkin' thinkin' on this particular topic. They're both well worth reading if you're interested in issues of immigration, the fate of second generations, and general misconceptions about those issues in Europe and elsewhere.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:42 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


> the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’

I wonder if it is even possible for different cultures to have a meaningful discussion of "multiculturalism" (or anything else that is culturally or societally specific).

For example, the quote above mentions "race", which is a uniquely American obessesion, as if the colour of our skin somehow predetermines our cultural outlook.

Multiculturalism goes beyond race. For example, the very vibrant mosque just up the street from me is home to people of all "races" (race being a social construct) who all share a bit of the same culture in the form of their religion.

While I don't think Canada is "the best of all possible worlds" I do wonder why our version of multiculturalism (outside of parochial Quebec) is so much more successful than what I read about is happening in, for example, France and the UK.

Different communities (as opposed to "races") in Canada are encouraged to celebrate their own cultural traditions, but generally speaking we don't *seem* to have enclaves, although I suppose you could say that North Vancouver is home to one hell of a lot of Persians for some reason, while Richmond is home to a large population of folks from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Mainland. And then there is Surrey...

Of course, Canada practices its own form of apartheid by forcing First Nations to live either on remote reserves or in the poorest of urban neighbourhoods.
posted by Nevin at 8:51 PM on April 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


Still reading the article, but I think Doug Saunders' Arrival City

Wow, I am from Canada and read the G&M but I had never heard about these books. I had always considered Saunders as Thomas Friedman Lite, but I'll have to check these books out.
posted by Nevin at 8:53 PM on April 15, 2015


Oh, nonsense! I've lived in "ethnically diverse neighborhoods" my entire life. White kids, black kids. There has been an Islamic center in my neighborhood since forever. And there was a time when my neighborhood held the largest concentration of Vietnamese refugees in the US (hence, not one but two "Mekong Markets"). We never had a problem getting along.

What we are seeing in Europe, I think, is the destruction of the assumed European cosmopolitan facade. It's easy to be tolerant if Others are a novelty. Harder if they move in next to you, insist on speaking their strange language, wearing their own dress and eating their own foods. And when, ever, has France been tolerant of differences of language and cuisine?
posted by SPrintF at 9:11 PM on April 15, 2015 [41 favorites]


I had always considered Saunders as Thomas Friedman Lite.

Oy, gevalt! Friedman-lite he isn't. Do check them out.

From the Foreign Policy article:

Germany’s road to multiculturalism was different from the United Kingdom’s, although the starting point was the same. Like many countries in western Europe, Germany faced an immense labor shortage in the years following World War II and actively recruited foreign workers. Unlike in the United Kingdom, the new workers came not from former colonies but from the countries around the Mediterranean: first from Greece, Italy, and Spain, and then from Turkey. They also came not as immigrants, still less as potential citizens, but as so-called Gastarbeiter (guest workers), who were expected to return to their countries of origin when the German economy no longer required their services.


Over time, however, these guests, the vast majority of them Turks, went from being a temporary necessity to a permanent presence. This was partly because Germany continued to rely on their labor and partly because the immigrants, and more so their children, came to see Germany as their home. But the German state continued to treat them as outsiders and refuse them citizenship.


German citizenship was, until recently, based on the principle of jus sanguinis, by which one can acquire citizenship only if one’s parents were citizens. The principle excluded from citizenship not just first-generation immigrants but also their German-born children. In 1999, a new nationality law made it easier for immigrants to acquire citizenship. Yet most Turks remain outsiders. Out of the three million people of Turkish origin in Germany today, only some 800,000 have managed to acquire citizenship.



Well, y'see. There's your problem right there. You can't say to people "come here and work, and even raise families here. Oh. You've raised a family here. Well, tough. You'll never really belong and you'' have a tough time of petiitioning for citizenship."

Fuck that noise.

This is one of the things Saunders calls out, actually.

Look, this might seem like a sentimental data point of one on immigration, but here you go:

A few years ago, I was laid off from my job. I applied for employment insurance (as it's now called - used to be unemployment insurance, but I digress). As part of the process, you have to attend a session at a government office where they essentially lecture you on the fact that you have to be actively seen to be looking for work while you're on it, blah, blah. I left that session somewhat annoyed, as these are benefits you pay a premium into while you work, so it's not "free money" (moreover, if your income in a given tax year you collected it in exceeds a threshold, the benefits you got to make ends meet are clawed back in your income tax assessment).

As I'm leaving this thing, in another office nearby there's this round of applause and cheering. Turned out a Canadian citizenship ceremony had just concluded. There were a bunch of people coming out, all carrying little Canadian flags. All sorts of ethnicities and ages. I stopped in the hall. All to a one, they seemed incredibly happy. Some were still wiping tears of joy. There was a father carrying his little girl, and she had a flag in her hand that she was admiring. "You're Canadian now!" he said to her.

I set aside my annoyance with the vagaries of employment insurance.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:12 PM on April 15, 2015 [34 favorites]


"race", which is a uniquely American obessesion, as if the colour of our skin somehow predetermines our cultural outlook

Oh, god, no. Europe has "race" too. It's just way, way, way more specific.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:13 PM on April 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think we might want to look at the distance between what these people say they are doing, and what they are actually doing.
posted by wuwei at 9:14 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


undermined national identities,

You know who else was big on National Identity ?

No seriously. That was, like, his entire platform. I'm not even making a joke.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:19 PM on April 15, 2015 [23 favorites]


For example, the quote above mentions "race", which is a uniquely American obessesion, as if the colour of our skin somehow predetermines our cultural outlook.

Non-Americans trying to pretend that race is something only Americans care about or have problems with is simultaneously adorable and insufferable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:34 PM on April 15, 2015 [51 favorites]


>Non-Americans trying to pretend that race is something only Americans care about or have problems with is simultaneously adorable and insufferable.

No, you're wrong. The American perspective is just one perspective. And it is insufferable how some of you think that yours is the only perspective that counts. Such arrogance, and your unconscious cultural hegemony not at all adorable.
posted by Nevin at 9:45 PM on April 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wait, what? I can't decide if I think you're really, really, really wrong or that you misread Pope Guilty.
posted by Justinian at 9:59 PM on April 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Race is a strange word. I prefer ethnicity myself even though yes, I think it is pretty obvious that genetic selection favors physical traits that work better in certain geographic areas.

In my opinion the minimal genetic variation among our species more an interesting footnote in the way our genes are expressed over geologic time and less a defining characteristic of a person or group's social standing at any particular point in time on earth. To me the concept of race is an external assignment at birth that is mostly othering and I'm not certain it has to be such a big deal with how people relate and/or separate from each other.

All that said I totally get the biases and fears at work that help drive societies into isolated cultural enclaves . Sighs. I wish I had a better way to talk about this without feeling like I'm about to get into trouble with someone.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:59 PM on April 15, 2015


No, you're wrong. The American perspective is just one perspective. And it is insufferable how some of you think that yours is the only perspective that counts. Such arrogance, and your unconscious cultural hegemony not at all adorable.

Let me guess: you don't see race and treat everybody the same regardless of their skin color, and racism doesn't affect, influence, or inform your views, beliefs, perceptions or actions. Am I correct?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 PM on April 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


France cannot even accept its indigenous linguistic diversity. Ditto Spain and a bunch of other places. "Multiculturalism" was awesome until it required Europeans to do anything or change anything about their societies; then it became intolerable, a pebble-in-the-shoe problem that is all-consuming despite its actual magnitude.

Fun fact: in Parisian supermarkets, peanut butter is stocked in the "foreign foods" section. If a super-common food from a partially French-speaking country next door gets that treatment, what hope do people from genuinely foreign civilizations have?
posted by 1adam12 at 10:19 PM on April 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Let me guess: you don't see race and treat everybody the same regardless of their skin color, and racism doesn't affect, influence, or inform your views, beliefs, perceptions or actions. Am I correct?

No, it means that in other countries and contexts, race has different meanings than in the US. Racial categories are different, racial stereotypes are different. I have a friend who changes race when she crosses the border: she is white in Canada, and she is Hispanic in the US. We don't have a strong concept of a "Hispanic" category, whether racial or ethnic. And, as my friend reports, the concept of pan-Hispanism wasn't common in Central and South America until the idea was imported from the US.

We have our own racial stereotypes. They can be pretty damn racist. But they are also not the same as the US, because they are born out of a different history. Only 4% of Canada is Black, far less than in the US. We have larger Asian and Aboriginal populations, proportionately, than the US. In Germany, there are major divides between German and Turkish - in the US, many Turks would just be categorised as white.
posted by jb at 10:34 PM on April 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


It seems weird to both state that Canada practices a form of apartheid, of all things, while simultaneously saying that race is something only Americans would care about to any substantial degree.
posted by XMLicious at 10:34 PM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


What I got from Pope Guilty's comment:

Non-Americans trying to pretend that race is something only Americans care about or have problems with is simultaneously adorable and insufferable.

...is that calling an obsession with race "uniquely American" is just plain wrong. As evidence, I call to the stand Australia's Eric Bogle for a quick lampooning of his compatriot's obsession with race.

Moreover Canada's treatment of aboriginal people says that the US obsession with race is by no means exclusive to the US experience.

Or consider Nigel Farage's call to end anti-discrimination employment laws and rising neo-Nazi attacks in Germany amongst other related scum.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:35 PM on April 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I have lived in Europe and in the US. It seems to me the US is better at assimilation. This is not because of better government policies or a more enlightened citizenry. It is simply because more immigrants work in the US, and workplaces are great melting pots.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:43 PM on April 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I grew up in the US, then lived in the Netherlands for 17 years. I would agree that the US is better at assimilation. I'm not sure I can explain this well, but I think that Europe has a very different vision of national identity than does the US.

The narrative myth in the US is that anyone can be an American-- immigration is part of the US identity (even if it is much different in reality). Even if immigration is part of a European reality (as is the case in the Netherlands) it isn't part of their national story.

I lived in the Netherlands most of my adult life. I'm fluent in Dutch. I have a Dutch passport. But it doesn't matter. I will never ever ever be Dutch. And if I had children, they would be (at best) half Dutch.
posted by frumiousb at 10:58 PM on April 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


And now I live in Hong Kong, which is a whole other kettle of fish as regards National Identity and race.
posted by frumiousb at 10:59 PM on April 15, 2015


For example, the quote above mentions "race", which is a uniquely American obessesion, as if the colour of our skin somehow predetermines our cultural outlook.

The quote above is directly from the article, which was written by Kenan Malik, an Indian-born Englishman.
posted by xigxag at 11:03 PM on April 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Race is stupid, and nations are a modern concept born out of political expedience as the ancient regimes of Europe crumbled during the 18th to the 20th century. Mythologies were constructed during this period which leads to the exclusion of newcomers by those already within a political territory, and the excluded forming their own alternative narratives and mythologies. People from a similar background move to areas where there are people like them.
posted by lilburne at 11:09 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Race is meaningful to people who are marked by the idea because it constrains their opportunities and profoundly shapes their experience of them. (It obviously shapes the lives of unmarked people, too, in the form of relentless privilege.)

Re Canada's warm and fuzzy immigration: most of our immigrants come under business, family, skilled worker, and student visa class categories. They come with at least some money (and qualifications - not that that necessarily helps them get hired in the professions in which they're often trained, but they're equipped to put in 15-20 years' worth of underemployment so the next generation can have a go at a safe and fair shot at life). Then there are the business class immigrants, people more directly and obviously investing in local economies, no one seems to have a problem with them.

Also, not that many comers are let in at once. Resources aren't particularly strained, in most places. Though in e.g. Toronto, where there's more competition for jobs in general, and blue-collar non-immigrants struggle to find their place - and deal with our chaos of an infrastructure daily - you do see resentment creeping in. Canadians were positively welcoming (at least on the surface) when immigration policies demanded that immigrants move to places their skills were in demand. Competition for resources is a factor with some weight, I think.

Also, non-First-Nations Canadians don't have available to them the same weirdly metaphysical nationalistic narratives Europeans draw from, about race and place and nation going back to the dawn of whatever.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:10 PM on April 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


frumiousb: "The narrative myth in the US is that anyone can be an American-- immigration is part of the US identity (even if it is much different in reality)."

I'm reminded of this great post-9/11 PSA: I Am An American
posted by Rhaomi at 11:12 PM on April 15, 2015


In the UK government's mouth, I think multiculturalism was only really a bit of rhetoric to let them avoid predicting, managing or supporting the process of immigration. It was easier to utter patronising cliches about chicken tikka masala and let it happen chaotically without mitigating or addressing any of the issues or risks.
posted by Segundus at 11:14 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


In San Diego I became pretty good friends with a group of people who grew up in an extremely diverse lower-middle class neighborhood. Almost all of them were friends since grade school and extremely close. The social culture was more or less American leaning towards Mexican American and probably highly influenced by Catholic schooling - not all that "multi." Cultural tension was probably more tied to class, "ghetto-ness" versus yuppie-ness, or whatever, than "race." Though I did sense resentment, for lack of a better word, of white privilege coupled with solidarity in being less-privileged. I think part of the Mexican American identity was seeing California as belonging to Mexicans and to Native Americans as much as the "USA." Maybe sort of a healthy non-identification with a nation-state. Anyway, I'm truly grateful for those years in my life. It seemed like utopia to me - coming from a much less diverse upbringing.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:24 PM on April 15, 2015


And now I live in Hong Kong, which is a whole other kettle of fish as regards National Identity and race.

This I'd be really interested in hearing more about, having just spent a little time in Hong Kong - incredible place.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:28 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fun fact: in Parisian supermarkets, peanut butter is stocked in the "foreign foods" section. If a super-common food from a partially French-speaking country next door

Peanut production in Europe is minimal so I don't think peanut butter really qualifies as being produced in one of France's border countries.
posted by biffa at 11:32 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


The middle bit of the article is the best— where the author compares the present situation with that of 150 years ago. There was no homogenous utopia; the Very Serious People of 1860 saw completely incompatible degraded "races" in the white rural poor.

But then Malik suggests that "class has diminished in importance in Europe", and I think here he forgets his earlier point and goes off the rails. What alarms the elites is the same now and then: the have-nots. The explicit condemnation will be of their customs, religion, ethnicity, color, or whatever can be seized upon, but the real problem is that they're poor.

Americans see themselves as better as assimilation, but I don't think we are. As Malik points out, the intra-French and intra-British prejudices of 1860 are largely forgotten today, just as anti-German or anti-Irish sentiment is a memory today. When poverty is involved, as with Hispanics and Blacks, white Americans don't really do any better than Europeans.

So I think blaming problems on "multiculturalism" is a dead end. You know what really helps the problems poor people have? Making them not poor any more.

(I know, easier said than done. But at least it's predictive. If a proposed organizational fix doesn't help people get less poor, then it probably won't solve the problem.)
posted by zompist at 11:34 PM on April 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Am I just an idiot, or is there no other way to read the article without registering?
posted by digitalprimate at 11:51 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


But then Malik suggests that "class has diminished in importance in Europe", and I think here he forgets his earlier point and goes off the rails. What alarms the elites is the same now and then: the have-nots. The explicit condemnation will be of their customs, religion, ethnicity, color, or whatever can be seized upon, but the real problem is that they're poor.

There are a lot of middle and upper middle-class French people (many 2nd or 3rd generation French) of Arabic and/or African descent who would raise an eyebrow at this. There is a definite racist aspect that can't be boiled down to classism or assimilationist leanings.
posted by kagredon at 12:37 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Er, and I'm sure in the rest of Europe as well, that's just the situation I'm most familiar with through my own extended family.)
posted by kagredon at 12:38 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Peanut production in Europe is minimal so I don't think peanut butter really qualifies as being produced in one of France's border countries.

1adam12 is referring to England, where peanut butter is much more easily found, and a significant-ish percentage of people speak French. On the Riviera, which has a large Anglophone cohort, I could only ever find peanut butter in... wait for it... Asian supermarkets. Here in Paris – Paris!! – I can only find it in the largest of large mega-supermarkets (they call them hypermarchés in French). And it is indeed in the "foreign" foods section, right next to couscous and other North African prepared dishes and ingredients.

As for frumiousb:
I lived in the Netherlands most of my adult life. I'm fluent in Dutch. I have a Dutch passport. But it doesn't matter. I will never ever ever be Dutch. And if I had children, they would be (at best) half Dutch.

Yep. Replace Netherlands with France and Dutch with French, it's the same for me. I had the idealistic belief that I would at least be accepted as a Frenchwoman originally from the States, but nope, nope, nope. It ain't ever going to happen. I've given up on taking "integration" as a good-faith approach from "true" French people, because it always, always boils down to "well okay I didn't know you weren't born in France until you told me, your French is better than most French people's, you cook French food wonderfully, you choose wine really well, you've lived in more French cities and visited more of the French countryside than most French people, but you don't get France." I totally understand why racial minorities don't even bother. There's no point. "Integration" is not a good-faith concept, it's a way of saying "I'm [nationality] and you're not because... because." Hit one of the national identity goalposts? They move it to something else. And it always boils down to race. Always. You can be a racial minority whose family has been in France for three generations, you will not be viewed as French. (Speaking from seeing this firsthand with friends.)

On preview, yep, what kagredon just said. It's not only linked to poverty, it's much more strongly linked to race/origins. Classism does come into play in that class is often used as a coverup for racist/xenophobic attitudes (as I talked about in a couple other threads yesterday), but it's not the root thing. A lower-class white person from a Franco-French family is viewed as French, and is attributed more privileges (though it still sucks compared to higher classes), where an upper-class French person whose great-grandparents happened to come from North Africa will never be viewed as French. They will be treated with lower-class attitudes. Again, I am speaking from directly seeing this go down IRL. And as someone who is titularly (career), financially, and educationally upper-middle-class, divulging the fact that I am originally American immediately changes how I am treated. Non-Franco-French friends and I get a kick out of how people's faces change, because for my friends, they never see the first assumption of "this person is French". They only ever see the "you're not French" expression. First-assumption expressions, based on my appearance (white woman, business attire, educated, relaxed-Parisian-accented spoken French), towards me go from open, excited, nonchalant, and then as soon as the "where are you originally from?" question gets answered (it's a thing in France, kind of like in the States), BOOM, they take a nearly-imperceptible step back. Eyes narrow. Face constricts. Voice loses its warmth.
posted by fraula at 12:52 AM on April 16, 2015 [44 favorites]


The author makes some good points, particularly his criticism of Christopher Caldwell's view of pre-WWII immigration in Europe, so it's strange to see him fueling the same idea that probably lead Caldwell to support that view: the fact that Europe = a handful of countries in Central Europe. I understand that the Pyrinees mark the western border while the eastern border is defined by whatever Russia is scheming at the moment; still, it's difficult to take him seriously.
posted by khonostrov at 1:22 AM on April 16, 2015


Hmm, I kinda wanna make a PB&J on a baguette now.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:29 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


England is not a 'partially French-speaking country'. The surprise is not that the French consider peanut butter foreign food, but that they are prepared to consider it food at all.

The middle bit of the article is the best

Yes, some thoughtful stuff, though he pushes it too far. Also, I think he's remarkably kind to the UK government to describe its bad habit of dealing with self-appointed 'community spokesmen' as an attempt to bring immigrants into the political process. One could make a case that it was actually the persistence of bad habits from the Empire; get the local leaders on your side and they'll do half the work for you. That policy was more about keeping the people at large out of the political process than bringing them in.
posted by Segundus at 1:37 AM on April 16, 2015


I thought the peanut butter thing was about Belgium?
posted by kagredon at 1:40 AM on April 16, 2015


Jesus God spare me from having any kind of 'national identity'.
posted by colie at 1:48 AM on April 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jesus God spare me from having any kind of 'national identity'.

Kinda agree - nations are a relatively recent construct. But if you jettison that, what replaces it? Class? Tribe? They're not improvements.
posted by Leon at 2:07 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the peanut butter thing was about Belgium?

Nope - they put the peanut butter in the foreign food section at the local Delhaize. Right above the marmite and Hunt's BBQ sauce, next to the black beans and "hot" sauce, and under just like a whole shelf of microwave popcorn.

Why they put UK/USA in the same food category remains unclear to me, but c'mon Belgium.
posted by logicpunk at 2:30 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Peanut butter is a national dish of the Netherlands.
posted by asok at 2:37 AM on April 16, 2015


Yeah, I'm not saying that peanut butter has through decades of symbol-laden marketing essentially risen to a Manna-like symbol of modern Dutch national mythology or anything -- but they say it'll make you so strong, you could be a farmer *and* a speed skater.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:58 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fraula : I can't agree with you on this one. How many people in France do have grand-parents of foreign origin ? Are they accepted into the French community ? I think that your experiences are tinged by the place you've been living in for awhile, i.e. south-east of France, which has its own brand of racism which isn't epitomizing something specific French, but rather is still the stage for an ongoing drama, "rapatriés" against North-African immigrants. Of course, there are biases, (and when origin is combined with a strong cultural identity and a low social class, they can be crushing) but stating that time won't change a thing to people's status in French society, that origin will always be a defining factor, really isn't my experience (which is only relevant to some extent, I'm aware of that).
posted by nicolin at 3:13 AM on April 16, 2015


i think population density has something to do with the perceived level of trouble. there's a lot of people here stating that America assimilates better. I'm not so sure. America has larger scale segregation and the space for cultures to effectively ignore each other day to day. Europe is chockablock with people. You can move from one street to the next and be in a different cultural melting pot.

I'd be interested in seeing what levels of asylum seekers are being allowed into America relative to Europe.
posted by trif at 3:17 AM on April 16, 2015


Having read a couple of article by Malik, I have to say he is the most thoughtful and insightful writer on these issues at the moment. He absolutely gets the problem, its causes, and can see a solution which avoids the twin poles of multiculturalism and racism.
posted by Thing at 3:43 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Re Canada's warm and fuzzy immigration

Not so warm and fuzzy any more. Since the Harper Government™ hit reset on immigration a few years ago, it's been ugly — unless you were bringing enough money in to be a Guaranteed Tory Voter for Life℠. You could also come in under the Gastarbeiter-lite TFW program, where you too could have glorious life sweeping up in a Tim's in Fort Mac for 18 months.

I know several people who have been refused PR for seemingly arbitrary reasons (“likely to vote for that stoner layabout Justin”, probably) and are having to leave. This includes two of my favourite local MeFites, too.
posted by scruss at 3:47 AM on April 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


How many people in France do have grand-parents of foreign origin ? Are they accepted into the French community ?

I seem to recall that Nicholas Sarkozy has substantial foreign ancestry, and Manuel Valls and Anna Hidalgo are both foreign-born or foreign descent. Sure, they've had it easier than many because they're white and European, but still.
posted by Thing at 3:50 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course, Canada practices its own form of apartheid by forcing First Nations to live either on remote reserves or in the poorest of urban neighbourhoods.

Wow, is this true? First Nation people are forced to live in reserves or certain urban neighborhoods? How is this enforced? If a First Nation person came across some money and wanted to purchase a house, or rent an apartment, in a small town or in another part of a city, would their application be denied? If they did find a way to purchase/rent, would they then be forcibly removed?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:04 AM on April 16, 2015


If a First Nation person came across some money and wanted to purchase a house, or rent an apartment, in a small town or in another part of a city, would their application be denied?

Seriously, you routinely hear of Aboriginal students being denied renting apartments and other horrible shit solely because they are Aboriginal on a regular basis. I love living in Canada but the attitudes towards First Nations peoples is often horrifying.
posted by Kitteh at 5:35 AM on April 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


And that's public policy? I had no idea. Jesus.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:36 AM on April 16, 2015


It's not public policy so much as it seems commonplace to be that kind of landlord to a type of people. Tenancy laws vary from province to province and you are not supposed to be able to refuse someone a home because of their ethnicity or anything else for that matter, yet somehow it happens to First Nations people a lot, it seems.
posted by Kitteh at 5:41 AM on April 16, 2015


Canada (both governments and individual people) treats First Nations, Metis and Inuit people terribly and is not improving, but apartheid is the wrong word for it. I'm not sure there's a specific word. There's increasing political awareness of this (on the part of white people -- the FN, Metis and Inuit aren't just discovering the fact now).
posted by jeather at 5:42 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the word is racism.
posted by sneebler at 5:48 AM on April 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Does any settler nation do particularly well regarding their indigenous people? I'm Australian, and while I think we on the whole do pretty well with multiculturalism, though obviously not perfectly and definitely unevenly, our treatment of Indigenous Australians is beyond shocking.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:01 AM on April 16, 2015


Oh, yes, it's absolutely racism, but I was looking for something more specific about the actions. Anyways, derail, sorry.
posted by jeather at 6:03 AM on April 16, 2015


Wow, is this true? First Nation people are forced to live in reserves or certain urban neighborhoods? How is this enforced? If a First Nation person came across some money and wanted to purchase a house, or rent an apartment, in a small town or in another part of a city, would their application be denied?

Mostly they do this by ensuring that there's no possibility of most First Nations people coming across any money in the first place. Usually by putting them in jail. Of course, being in jail also keeps them from living where they want.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:14 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]



Wow, is this true? First Nation people are forced to live in reserves or certain urban neighborhoods? How is this enforced?


In my neck of the American woods (and I live in a part of Minneapolis that is heavily Native), it's enforced on indigenous people via police violence, hiring and rental discrimination and a concentration of such subsidized housing as there is in one low-income neighborhood. If by "apartheid" you are looking for a meaning of "literally formally written into the legal code and no Native people can live outside [Native areas]" then yes, there is no apartheid (and indeed, I wouldn't myself use that term).

You don't have to be too old here to remember when the cops routinely rolled and beat Native men with total impunity - now it still happens, but not as pervasively and not purely for amusement, because there was a legal project started in the eighties to stop it. You don't have to be much older than that to remember when stores and bars had signs saying that no Native people could come in, and there's still plenty of de facto "you are not welcome here".

If you do not live in a part of the country with a large Native population (and I assume that this is true in Canada as well) you really are not aware of how incredibly much discrimination there is. And the more "native" you look, the worse it can be. And things were so much worse in living- and near-living memory, which affects things. If your grandmother was in a residential school, for instance, and she was sexually abused and beaten, and she passed along a lot of messed up family dynamics to your dad, and your dad drank and hit you...well, you're apt to take a dim view of local society. If your family still has family stories about mob violence and abuse that happened when people were forced off their land, too, you tend to take a dim view. [both examples from people I know, by the way] The only person who has ever told me to my face that he did not like white people was an older Native guy, and I do not blame him a bit, and I don't think it was rude. It was just history.
posted by Frowner at 6:57 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Interesting article, thanks for posting. I've definitely run into some of these issues since moving to Copenhagen (from the US, just last fall). Denmark of course has its own take on immigration; I've definitely heard long time residents complain that they (and their children) are not taken to be Danish and that only those who've been here for 8 generations can be. But I don't know how universal this feeling is. One thing I'm pretty sure they've got right is wide availability of language courses. Being able to speak the language is but the first step, however.

I've got two major observations/questions that weren't addressed much in the article.
The first is how much the formation of a general European identity, due to the formation of the EU, has affected how Europe treats her immigrants (even those who aren't really immigrants but second or subsequent generation). My workplace here is pretty international, but mostly from other countries in Europe (and almost entirely of people of European descent, including myself). We often get to talking about how the EU works, and it seems to me there is a (nascent?) sense of European identity (well, maybe I just feel that way because being an American I'm outside of that identity..)

The second is an intersectionality issue, with respect to feminism. I am a white woman born in the western US, so I have a certain experience of feminism. It's pretty central to my identity and understanding of the world. There's a possible conflict here with increasing religiosity in the Muslim community here. I just can't find a reasonable way to parse my own feelings here-- does anyone have some links to feminist writing from a European Islamic perspective? Bonus points if it also addresses some of the national/European identity issues discussed in the OP.
posted by nat at 7:02 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I lived in the Netherlands most of my adult life. I'm fluent in Dutch. I have a Dutch passport. But it doesn't matter. I will never ever ever be Dutch. And if I had children, they would be (at best) half Dutch.

I am talking to the woman at the customer service desk at the local Wal Mart here in rural Nova Scotia. As we wait for the POS to do something we exchange pleasantries, and I remark on her accent. "Are you from the Midlands?"

I can't remember if she said Birmingham or Lincoln, or something like that, because the next line just kind of left me stunned. I make some pleasantry like "Oh wow, it's a long way to come live here eh?"

"But you know, back home I can't be sure if I am in England, or Poland, or Pakistan. Here it feels like the England I remember growing up."

Wow, holy shit. This isn't the first racist I have met in these parts, it seems being local and white puts the odds at about 1 in 3. But this is the first imported racist, she immigrated to escape the foreigners. And what kind of BS has she swallowed where the England that she grew up in was white?! She looks like she's early 20s at best! I was also a little floored at how quickly she was willing to assume I was one of them, but I kept my composure and made my way outside. In terms of population percentages Canada might be inclusive and tolerant, but get out of the major metropolitan areas and it is the 1950s in terms of the casual racism whites will display to one another.

I didn't mention that my wife and son from Tajikistan were out waiting in the car, or that we were driving to the Halifax Masjid to get married in the Islamic faith.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:28 AM on April 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


insist on speaking their strange language, wearing their own dress and eating their own foods

The core problem is that culture is much more than the above. Culture includes how you handle and solve conflicts.

Europeans have no problem with people eating different food or wearing different clothes. We've had immigration from lots of countries (including from East Asia) over the last hundred years without any problems.

But lot's of the new immigrants don't want democracy and want to dismantle the existing democracies. That's the big problem.

We have a problem with immigrants who resorts to use threats and/or violence instead of the court and judges.

I think the source of the problem is that most Europeans had a shallow understanding of culture and thought that people from The Middle East would be just as easy to integrate as the immigrants from asia and therefore allowed pretty much unrestricted immigrantion.
posted by flif at 7:33 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Europeans have no problem with people eating different food or wearing different clothes. We've had immigration from lots of countries (including from East Asia) over the last hundred years without any problems.

This is such a steaming pile of ahistorical bullshit I don't even know where to start.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:47 AM on April 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Meatbomb - oh yeah, Canada's pretty scary anywhere in between the cities bands will visit, i.e. most of Canada. I have friends who don't feel comfortable going north of Barrie. (I don't really, either - I've been approached - more than once! - and frankly asked if I was Eye-talian. [I'm not.]) And socially conservative Brits coming here for "relief" from the terrible strains of trying to get along with Others back home is a thing, for sure.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:02 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have lived in Europe and in the US. It seems to me the US is better at assimilation. This is not because of better government policies or a more enlightened citizenry. It is simply because more immigrants work in the US, and workplaces are great melting pots.

I don't mean this as a plus, really, but American culture and media are very, very good at being the Borg.

i think population density has something to do with the perceived level of trouble. there's a lot of people here stating that America assimilates better. I'm not so sure. America has larger scale segregation and the space for cultures to effectively ignore each other day to day. Europe is chockablock with people.

Not really, but it's easy to misunderstand population density in the US -- the chunks where the people live are not a whole lot less dense than Europe, but the US also has two empty quarters in the mountain west and Alaska where ~nobody lives.

The densest (non-weensy) European countries, like the Netherlands, are about as dense as... New Jersey.
The UK and Germany are about as dense as Maryland.
Denmark is less dense than New York state and marginally denser than Pennsylvania.
France is about as dense as Pennsylvania.

I'd be interested in seeing what levels of asylum seekers are being allowed into America relative to Europe.

The US rates will be lower, mostly because migration across oceans is hard and expensive and the Americas aren't creating refugees at the same rate the Old World is right now. Also US asylum is weird and difficult, while just living in the US if you can physically get there is much less so.

But if you mean that European countries are less good at assimilating people because European migrants are poor refugees instead of skilled and educated migrants like in the US, you'd be wrong. There might be only about 250,000 formal refugees in the US, but there are also about six million unauthorized Mexican migrants, who are mostly poor, lower-skill, and lower-education, and another six million or so from other nations running the gamut of backgrounds.

tl;dr: More than one in thirty residents of the US is an unauthorized or undocumented migrant.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:03 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It would be more accurate to say that Mexican migrants tend to have skills that aren't rewarded well and don't require much formal education than that they tend to be low-skilled; sorry.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I find that far, far too many analyses of "multiculturalism" and its supposed success or failure is based on the idea that once upon a time, each European country was a homogenous entity; that borders were not porous, let alone flexible, and that disparate cultures did not find ways to live side by side in different communities for centuries, but then alluvasudden WW2 happened and BOOM suddenly immigration and cultures mixing together.

I don't think there's a problem with multiculturalism - Europe has been "multicultural" for ages now. The problem is a fascination with some pure, idyllic one-nation-one-people Europe that never existed, and attempts made to compare our present reality to this fictional past.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:19 AM on April 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


cotton dress sock: And socially conservative Brits coming here for "relief" from the terrible strains of trying to get along with Others back home is a thing, for sure.

Holy shit -- here I was thinking this was just something Western Australia was particularly suffering from.
posted by barnacles at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2015


And socially conservative Brits coming here for "relief" from the terrible strains of trying to get along with Others back home is a thing, for sure.

It was a nice neighbourhood until those goddamn Jutes moved in next door. And don't get me started on the Angles.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:47 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was a nice neighbourhood until those goddamn Jutes moved in next door. And don't get me started on the Angles.

"If this is anyone but Stewart Lee, you're stealing my bit!"
posted by Sys Rq at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


A joke from David Graeber's Debt:
At the close of the Second World War, a tiny village near the border between Russia and Poland is visited by surveyors, who are tasked with defining where the new border between Russia and Poland is with relation to the village. Villagers watched anxiously as the surveyors spent the afternoon conducting their measurements. At the conclusion, the survey foreman told the gathered villagers that the village was officially 37 feet within Poland's borders.

The villagers cheered uproariously. The foreman, confused, asked what possible difference it could make.

"Don't you see?," answered one of the villagers, happily, "No longer will we have to put up with those cold Russian winters!"
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:10 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


BBC: Italian police say they have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they allegedly threw 12 Christians overboard following a row on a boat heading to Italy.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:29 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have lived in Europe and in the US. It seems to me the US is better at assimilation.

Probably because, generally speaking, America and Americans aren't exactly bending over backwards to accommodate immigrants. Things like ESL schooling and services/materials in other languages are provided grudgingly and usually as a result of a lawsuit (or lawsuits). In short, most of "us" will accommodate your peculiar linguistic, cultural, or religious needs insofar as the law requires.* So you might want to learn a little English and if you have special religious dietary needs you might want to pack a lunch. *YMMV based on location
posted by MikeMc at 12:19 PM on April 16, 2015


I don't know that Europeans are "bending over backwards", though. The laws aren't always more accommodating, either.

I do think that there's more of a romantic narrative around assimilative immigration in the U.S. Our ancestors all left their birthplaces to come here for a better life*, etc. So I think there is may be a more receptive attitude in the U.S. towards immigrants who "perform" assimilation in a way that reinforces that "land of opportunity" narrative.

* of course, this narrative glosses over those American's whose ancestors had lived here since time immemorial, and those who were kidnapped into slavery
posted by kagredon at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, the US has a really different narrative about the state and religion. Obviously, we still have a lot of "we are a Christian nation" nonsense, but there is a strong intellectual trend that has a lot of traction of "people should be able to believe what they want". This leads to all kinds of other contradictions (like the religious freedom stuff in Indiana, or anti-vaxxers, etc). But it does also mean that you can make a strong, serious public argument that Muslims, for instance, should be able to participate fully in the public sphere just as they are. It's not an "automatic win" kind of argument, but it has a lot of power.

I live in an area which has had a very large influx of Muslims over the last fifteen years and which had basically no Muslims before that. It certainly hasn't been all beer and skittles - we've had anti-Muslim racism, we've had Muslim cab drivers refusing gay passengers - but it's nothing like France or Germany. In general - at least in the city core - you just....see a lot of women in hijab and guys wearing various hats and robes and so on. There are going to be a lot of Muslim dentists, pediatricians and other professionals in not too long if the University of Minnesota professional programs are anything to go by, and that's just going to further integrate people. When I go to the gym a little later than normal, I often encounter a couple of ladies who pray in the locker room.
posted by Frowner at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's super mega important to distinguish between assimilation and integration. The former is too often attempted (and too often by force, which is obviously met with understandable resistance), and too often expected of immigrants, but it's always the latter that wins out in the end.

Immigrants bring their culture with them, which then, rather than being wholly erased in favour of the dominant culture as is the goal of assimilation, continues to exist and evolve on its own terms, cross-pollinating with other immigrant cultures, integrating a ton of the dominant local culture, but also being integrated into the dominant local culture. (To any nervous nelly nativists concerned by that last point, worry not! It just means you can get a bastardized version of their homeland's cuisine if you so choose.)

Integration is something that happens all by itself if you let it. Let it!

Attempting to force assimilation always creates conflict and never eliminates it.

Also, re: "Enclaves" or "ghettoes" or whatever you want to call them. (Yes, we have them in Canada.) If people of a similar background clump up voluntarily, that's more often than not out of convenience; they have access to the familiar there--food, clothing, music, places of worship, languages, etc. It's handy, that's all. It's not because those people hate outsiders. It's not a problem, and it doesn't need fixing. If, however, the clumping up isn't voluntary, if it's discriminatory housing bullshit, then yes, that is something that needs fixing.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:56 PM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's handy, that's all. It's not because those people hate outsiders. It's not a problem, and it doesn't need fixing. If, however, the clumping up isn't voluntary, if it's discriminatory housing bullshit, then yes, that is something that needs fixing.

Yup. They're "arrival cities," the eponym for Doug Saunders book. They're a normal, healthy feature of human migration. They actually facilitate integration. They're even a feature of rural-to-urban migration within countries.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:01 AM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]




>Sys Rq's distinction between immigration and assimilation is valuable in this, I think. One of the reasons that America is easy to integrate into is that we're really really bad at assimilation. Kids don't even assimilate into their parent's culture in the same way that they would in Europe.

I feel like the entire american story is people saying "I don't want to do that, so I'm leaving and starting my own thing". That's the american war for independence, the civil war, mormonism, westward expansion, hippies, jazz, rock and roll, most children w/r/t their parents. I've heard it from old folks across racial and class lines that none of the kids these days listen to their elders. And none of the kids do. My grandparents had multiple kids- each kid moved to a new city, changed their religion, and developed their own family. Each of their respective kids also moved to new cities, changed their religion, and developed their own traditions. On both sides. Looking at my father, mother, step-father, and step-mother, along with the generations above and below em, and there are a total of 4 people who didn't leave the city they were born in (and they're all under the age of 18). Out of like, over a 100 people, there is no identifiable cultural heritage. It's easy as shit* to integrate into something like that.


*it's obviously not "easy as shit" for everyone everywhere in the US. I'm just positing this idea in comparison to the "traditional" european narrative.
posted by DGStieber at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think it's actually "easy" (with your asterisk) to assimilate into something like that, and really hard to integrate into something like that. The American "melting pot" assimilationist ideal has basically always been "Give up all vestiges of your heritage and you'll fit right in!" (which is why, I think, it gets harder the darker you are, because you're kind of "wearing" your heritage visibly). For people who don't want to give up all their heritage and culture and values, who maybe want to keep living near their parents and keep their same religion and such, it's easy to end up in a binary of assimilation vs. separatism. (Which, now that I've typed that out, I realize is pretty much the entire point and conclusion of the linked article.)
posted by jaguar at 12:44 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The melting pot isn't assimilationist, though. If a teeny bit of carbon "immigrates" into a melting pot full of iron, both substances change into something different and better.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:30 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


By the time I left middle school in the early nineties there was already some talk from teachers of maybe seeing America as a salad bowl instead. Several distinct ingredients all retaining their own identities while still being part of a greater whole. There are benefits and drawbacks to both models. The melting pot can lead to a lot of cultural appropriation when the exchange is viewed as a mandatory part of fitting in, but the salad bowl doesn't promise as high a degree of everybody being the same at the most basic level. Truth somewhere in the middle situation, I think.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:47 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah. More of a smoothie, really.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Culturalism: Culture as Political Ideology

Interesting essay summarizing how culturalism and multi-culturalism are the same culturalist ideology which demotes individual rights, and with undesired social results if one was expecting progressive change: If underprivileged groups can be persuaded to become more concerned with religion, culture and identity, they will be split, and the focus will be moved away from concrete political problems.
posted by Brian B. at 9:28 AM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]




Britain’s criminally stupid attitudes to race and immigration are beyond parody (Frankie Boyle)
Britain is in a similar place with colonialism. We have streets named after slave owners. We profited from a vile crime and feel no shame. We fear the arrival of immigrants that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them. For much of the rest of the world we must be the focus of bitter amusement, characters in a satire we don’t understand. It is British people that don’t learn languages, or British history. Britain is the true scrounger, the true criminal.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:58 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


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