The Impact of Multiculturalism on Western Societies Since the 19th Century

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The Impact of Multiculturalism on Western Societies Since the 19th Century Since the beginning of the 19th century the topic of multiculturalism has raised many issues in our society. Migration tendencies, the growing number of minorities, support groups for refugees and immigrants, and an increase in knowledge of human rights, have split our governments and our nations. Media outlets are constantly turning out stories on boat people, multiculturalism, cultural pluralism, Islam, terrorists attacks etc, which can make anyone’s head hurt trying to understand it all and what it means to us. In this essay I will go back to where multiculturalism was first accepted as a government policy and how it has affected western society to the present day. “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams” (Jimmy Carter, 1924). Multiculturalism once known as the ‘melting pot’ or ‘mosaic’ is a term that covers three areas: it can refer to a society that is described by ethnic or cultural heterogeneity; it can refer to a principle of mutual respect and equality; and to government policy promoting and protecting diversity (Driedger and Burnet, 2011, n.p). Government multicultural policies can include: dual citizenship; government support for newspapers, television and radio in minority languages; support for minority festivals, holidays and celebrations; acceptance of traditional and religious dress in schools, the military, and society in general; support for the arts from different cultures around the world; and programs to encourage minority representations in politics, education and the workforce (Harrison, 2011, n.p). The Second World War was seen to be ‘the beginning of the end’ of racial discrimination. The 1960s brought about change across the world with racist theories being discredited, the dismantlement of the Neo-Imperial Empires in Africa and Asia, civil rights and black power. Ethnic resurgence gained strength throughout America and minorities demanded social equality (Padolsky, 2002, p.139). Up until the 1970s many western societies had immigration legislation that was racially based and is now considered illegal. The multicultural policy was first embraced by Canada in 1971. All citizens were to be treated equally, keep their identities, have self-respect of their ancestries, and have a feeling of belonging. (www.cic.gc.ca) The Canadian multicultural policy was created to ‘encourage racial and ethnic harmony’, establish the rights of the aboriginal people and confirmed the two official languages of their country. (www.cic.gc.ca) In 1973 Australia followed suite with a similar multicultural polciy. Since the beginning of federation in 1901 Australia’s immigration policies were racially motivated, hence the introduction of ‘The White Australia Policy’. This piece of legislation imposed a dictation test written only in European languages in which most Asians failed. Any non-whites who remained in Australia were restricted of most of their rights and freedoms, this included Aboriginals. Social attitudes towards racial discrimination and the collapse of the European colonialisation saw the white Australia policy slowly disintegrate and finally being abolished in 1973. The Whitlam Government introduced the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975, which made it illegal for immigration to be racially based. (www.abc.net.au) It wasn’t long after Canada and Australia that many of the Western Nations within the European Union assumed similar multicultural policies (Singham, 2006, p. 37). Assimilation

Assimilation a concept first adopted by the French in the 1800’s became an Australian Policy in 1961. All Australia Governments agreed that: “All Aboriginals and part-aboriginals are expected to eventually attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights...
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