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.Skip to next paragraph
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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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