`Multiculturalism'

The Opinion page column " `Multiculturalism' Versus the US Ideal," Jan. 15, illustrates the superficial analysis that has too often characterized discussion of a complex subject. The author presents the specter of a "multiculturalist movement," which, he implies, seeks ethnic separatism in place of a more inclusive American political identity. But multiculturalism is not simply a movement or a philosophy. It is a condition of our history and society.

When the author argues that Martin Luther King Jr. would have disagreed with multiculturalism, he is talking more about King the safe icon, not the man who was a strong opponent of the ways United States foreign policy was corrupting the American values he admired. The author treats multiculturalism as a kind of perverse desire to choose difference over unity. But Dr. King understood that African-Americans are not free to choose to be separate; their choices are partly shaped by the racism that is a dail y part of American life.

The author is right: Our racism is not unique, and our nationalism is more inclusive than many others. But until everyone is fully valued, we will not understand who we are as a nation. If the author is committed to the dreams of King, then multiculturalism is not his enemy. Marc Belanger, Amherst, Mass. Department of Political Science University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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