Multiculturalism is complex in that it has numerous definitions and has a different meaning, whether positive or negative, depending on individual opinion and governmental ideologies. The main idea is that different ethnic, racial, religious or cultural groups coexist, not necessarily in harmony, alongside one another and a county's system promotes ethnic diversity within its society. Multiculturalism does bring many challenges to a country, sometimes violently in the form of riots and even genocides, however the long-term impacts can be far more beneficial, essentially overriding any negatives it may bring.
The ever increasing integration of ethnic groups into pre-existing societies has resulted in the emergence of three main policies used by governments internationally regarding this. By far the most negative of the three is separation, in which people of different ethnicities who have little in common with the majority population should be kept separate as a result of their differences. This became apparent in Australia during the 1960's which pursued a 'white Australia' migration policy, in that any skin colors other than white were not allowed to enter the country. Although it did not last for a long amount of time, it would have had a huge effect on the people living in Australia, who would have been brought up to believe that other ethnicities were inferior to their own. Also, as Australia is seen as a key international political player, other countries may have been led to believe that their policies were acceptable and followed suit. This would have been a major setback for achieving multiculturalism and racial tolerance, making the possibility of different ethnic communities living alongside on another more challenging. However, the fact that the policy lasted only a few years suggests that people were already beginning to accept the fact that the world was changing into a more multicultural accepting society, and separation policies only hindered this for a short period of time, so this challenge faced was cancelled out in the long run.
The second multicultural policy can also create challenges within a society. Assimilation expects new migrants to lose their distinctiveness, including beliefs and style of dress, and adopt the cultures of the host country. It can result in harsh, even extreme measures on the behalf of the majority population to eradicate minority cultures which have not blended in well. For example, during the 1920's America saw the development of the KKK (Klu Klux Klan), an extremist Christian organisation who performed measures of genocide and lynching on people of different ethnicities and religion, despite America's 'Open Door' policy to attract international migrants to work in the country. This is a severe example, however it shows that even though a country can welcome migrants and people from varying cultures and ethnicities, it often faces the challenge of encouraging it's people to comply with them, and in a country as big as America (at 9,827,000km² to be exact) with over three-hundred million people, it is impossible that every single person will accept multiculturalist societies, and difficulties will continue to arise in the future. Even if a country politically is pushing for international migrants for whatever reason including their economic contribution to the country through labor, it is often the will of the population within it that can only make multiculturalism work because the power of free will and freedom of speech overrides these policies.
In more modern times, multicultural has become assumed that it has the same meaning as multi-ethnic. People who are of the same ethnicity are often presumed to hold the same cultural beliefs, which is not often the case. These assumptions can result in misunderstandings on the behalf of both majority and minority ethnicities and can cause challenges to the local councils leading to mistakes that can trigger conflict. For example, Jewish communities in the UK are in general well integrated; their unspecific dress style means that they won’t necessarily stand out as ‘Jews’ amongst a crowd. Because of this, local councils may not provide for fundamental needs of Jewish communities, such as synagogues and kosher food suppliers as they are unaware of these groups. This can lead to a reduced quality of life as essential needs are not being met. Despite this however, an increased use of surveys and graphical skills such as chloropleth maps in modern times identifies where multi-ethnic communities are settled within a county so that sufficient services can be provided to meet the needs of these people by observing ethnicities. Therefore, our advancement in understanding through time has put an end to these challenges once face by multicultural societies.
Following World War II, there was an influx of multiple religions into the UK, including Jewish and Islamic people. They sought retribution from their own countries, in which they were being persecuted and murdered because of their religious, cultural or ethnical beliefs. The United Kingdom was not yet the (almost) harmonious multicultural society it is today, and despite being the enemy, Hitler’s accusations that Jews, along with other religions, were taking all the country’s jobs which rightfully belonged to white Christians, tarnished the views of other cultures in the eyes of populations worldwide. In August 1947, a mere 2 years after the end of the Second World War, anti-Jewish riots broke out in North Country cities, specifically in Manchester and Liverpool. The mob crowd which grew thought it was appropriate to ‘show the Jews what real Englishmen thought of them.’ All premises belonging to Jews for the length of a mile down the street had gaping windows and the pavements were littered with glass and rubble. The city was described to look as it had following intense German bombings during the war, of which they had only just recovered from. Therefore, once again multiculturalism has resulted in social challenges within communities that are politically secure and even promote ethnic diversity.
Another example in which multiculturalism has given rise to violence in the form of riots was the Oldham race riots of 2001. They followed years of neglect on behalf of the police and community leaders towards racial intolerance and xenophobia in the area. Asians, including those of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian heritage which make up 11% of Oldham's population, pelted the town with bricks, stones and petrol bombs over three days. As a prosperous thriving center of the industrial revolution, Oldham had always been a town attracting migrants. However, the Asian communities which settled remained culturally very distinct from the local population in dress, language, religion, customs, and in color. They lived in their own separate close-knit communities called enclaves and became marginalised within an area of poor education and frequently were the targets of racial abuse. These enclaves are thought to be one of the main contributors to the ethnic tensions within Oldham, as it is fear of the unknown that creates anxiety which can end in violence. Therefore social misunderstandings create challenges within a multicultural society, although if the police and local council had not ignored the building racial strain in the area, the riots would have never occurred as problems would have been dealt with before they escalated. As they have learnt from these mistakes, it is clear that these circumstances are unlikely to happen again and in a way have allowed the UK to move forward into a more balanced multicultural society.
Dating as far back as 800BC, it could be debated that the UK has always been a multicultural society. We have seen our fair share of invasions, war, famine and economic growth, all of which have brought migrants to this country from all over the world. 5 different armies of invaders, including Romans, Vikings and Saxons from across Europe have settled here, working the land and building key infrastructures such as roads, factories and cities, forming the foundations for the Britain we know today. During an era of economic growth in the mid-twentieth century, advertisements for labour was sent to commonwealth countries such as India and Pakistan and families arrived in their thousands. To this day, 12% of the UK's working age population is migrant, boosting our economy by a substantial £6 billion a year, without which we would be a lot deeper in the recession than we are now. Throughout the span of the 2812 years from our first recorded migrants, cultures and languages have merged. Just look in the dictionary and see if you can find a word which hasn't derived from Latin, German or French languages and so on. It's impossible. Therefore what people call British today is one giant multi-culture in itself. Tea for instance, has a true heritage which lies within India. The fact that the UK still exists shows that multiculturalism must be positive as it wouldn't be here otherwise. Britain is seen as a major political member in the world and possibly this is what has dictated the success of multiculturalism here. Being politically secure, the government has almost eliminated racism which is a main challenge affecting multiculturalism and the society has bloomed. Therefore in a more developed country, there are possibly more positives than challenges caused by multiculturalism than in a country who's government is not so stable.
To conclude, multiculturalism does cause many challenges to society, however most of which are social problems which seem to have become resolved over time as our world has evolved into something more humane and understanding. The challenges will be left behind over time as new generations grow up in this era of racial equality without knowing any different, which is what it should have been like in the first place. It seems as though challenges have only hindered rather than stopped the ongoing forward movement into achieving a multicultural society.