I think multiculturalism has been a very effective way of silencing anti-racist politics in this country. Multiculturalism has allowed for certain communities—people of colour—to be constructed as cultural communities. Their culture is defined in very Orientalist and colonial ways—as static, they will always be that, they have always been that. And culture has now become the only space from which people of colour can actually have participation in national political life; it’s through this discourse of multiculturalism. And what it has done very successfully is it has displaced an anti-racist discourse.
You know, I teach and I have young students of colour, they come, and they completely bought into this multiculturalism ideology. They have no language to talk about racism. They know that if they talk about racism, they will get attacked.
And multiculturalism is the dominant discourse now through which all of us have to, are forced to, articulate our politics. And I think multiculturalism has, in that way, it’s done a big disservice. Because it has just silenced anti-racist discourse and anti-racist politics in this country, which now has been defined as an extreme kind of politics. And meanwhile, the deeply-embedded racial inequalities in Canadian society continue to be reproduced. And multiculturalism masks them, it glosses them over, and it has become a policy of governing and managing communities of colour, so that those politics only get articulated in the name of culture, and culture is defined in highly patriarchal terms.
My position on multiculturalism is that multiculturalism exists in a very uneasy tension with bilingualism and biculturalism. So Canada defines itself as either officially multicultural, or officially bilingual and bicultural. And by bilingual and bicultural, what is meant is French and English. And so we have a kind of policy of white supremacy—which is what bilingualism and biculturalism really is—and multiculturalism. And multiculturalism, you know, how do we define what these multi-cultures are? They are different, diversity. Who are they different from? The multi-cultures that get defined are different from the English and French.
And so the centre of the nation still continues to be defined as English and French. So multiculturalism actually, from my perspective, upholds white supremacy. You know, I think that I would support a multicultural politics, if at the same time we were dismantling white supremacy, which we’re not, right? In fact, multiculturalism fits very nicely into, as I say, the “managing of ethnics and the coloureds” in a way that still allows the nation to define itself as really bilingual and bicultural.
(Hat-tip to Little Bee.)
- Canada is multicultural, not anti-racist. by Restructure!
Maple leaf photo by Ruslan V. Sushko under Creative Commons license. From Wikimedia Commons.