Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world

Multiculturalism and Assimilation

According to Wikipedia, Multiculturalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism) is about  extending equitable status to distinct ethnic and religious groups without promoting any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central.  This is as opposed to Cultural assimilation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_assimilation) which is supports or promotes the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture.

Group of School Kids from different backgroundsThese two descriptions will sound as the main two strategies employed by countries to deal with multi-ethnicities.   Britain, Canada and New Zealand could be said to proponents of multiculturalism whilst most of Europe and the USA are more assimilation biased.  In fact, despite the Portuguese and Spanish colonialists encouraging inter-racial marriages in their colonies, there was an expectation that the off spring of such unions would receive formal education and fully adopted European customs.  Many mixed race people in the Portuguese African colonies became 'assimilados' and in some cases were granted citizenship in the Portugal even after independence.  Britain on the other hand, especially during Victorian times, discouraged inter-racial mating and mixing but accepted the children of such relationships as citizens until sometime in the seventies.

Some of the controversies regarding immigration seem to be about which strategy would work best.  In Britain there appears to be a pressure towards assimilation especially since the 9/11 and the July London Tube bombings.  Citizen and English language tests are government's knee jerk reaction to the perceived threat to Britishness of multiculturalism.  By contrast, immigrants in the USA work hard to be seen as American and be assimilated into the society as shown by American Japanese sentiment during the Second World War.  

In cases of immigrants from neighboring states, there is an implied expectation of assimilation and this is rarely an issue as neighbouring countries tend to be similar - the operative word tend.  Mexico/USA is one exception.  However in many settlement ex-colonies, assimilation is not prevalent and there is a sort of 'expatriate' culture that sits and is tolerated by the mainstream community.

Group of Office Workers of different racesHowever, the USA's experience due to the recognition of rights in the constitution gives a sense of more multiculturalism then is acknowledged. This highlights the actual experience of all developed countries with immigration. There is a mix of the two strategies and in some cases different migrant communities will lend themselves to one of or the other methodolgies.

Culture is a moving target, it evolves with the community.  What is British, French or American culture?  I guarantee the answers would be different today than they would have been 20 years ago.  Culture in all these countries is fusing the different cultural inputs made even more accessible by the second, third and fourth generations who no longer regard themselves as immigrants but an integral part of their societies.  Curry is supposed to be the UK's national dish as we eat more of it than the traditional fish and chips.  The fusion of cultures is very distinct in the youth culture of music and dance today.

There are still in many countries, communities that attempt to hand onto the 'old country' sometimes using physical and economical cohesive means to discourage the younger generation from assimilating into the host country's society.  History teaches us that this kind of behaviour leads to the sort of rhetoric that the immigration control proponents are currently spouting and this in turn can turn out very badly for the community as with the Jews in many European countries during the Second World War and the Indians expelled by Idi Amin from Uganda in 1966.  This kind of isolation leads to indigenous pressure on Governments to act against the interests of all migrant even those who are happy to assimilate.  The young in these communities must work hard to break down the barriers or the dangers of racism and prejudice will increase.

Mixed Race Family Enjoying The OutdoorsMany point to the growing mixed heritage population as evidence of a more tolerant society that accepts mixed heritage couplings and that most people are being assimilated into a new mainstream culture that draws from many cultural experiences and in appearance bodes well for the future.  Unfortunately life cannot be that simple, many people from all races and communities still view mixed relationships and the children that result as an abomination that will eventually destroy their particular race or community or society.

In the meantime, all over the world the new mixed heritage are accepting their 'gift', refusing to be bullied into accepting one or another label and reaching out to each other over the Internet, in books, in music and in dance.  Hopefully this website helps make that an easier thing to do.