Multiculturalism is one of the biggest buzzwords of our era, but when you get right down to it, how many people actually know what it means? Does it mean not discriminating against immigrants when they want to buy a new home in a particular subdivision? Does it mean helping newcomers learn the local language so they can seek out employment? Or maybe, learning to speak a second language so you can better help your clients and make them feel at home, much like the dental implant specialists at Rockwest Dental has. Does it mean visiting a mosque with your Muslim friend? Does it mean learning about other people's cultures? This article will help to clear up some of the confusion over the term multicultural.
In its simplest form, multiculturalism means that many different cultures exist side by side in any given area where each group makes an effort to understand and accommodate the needs of the others without resorting to conflict or violence to resolve their differences. A neighborhood where Native Canadians, European descended Canadians, new Chinese immigrants, African Canadians, and Hispanic peoples and no one hassles them for being different can be considered multicultural. In many developed nations, multiculturalism is encouraged.
Many people get multiculturalism confused with assimilation, but in reality the two concepts are diametrically opposed. In assimilation, people from a different culture who are moving are encouraged to learn English and do things the way their neighbors do. Assimilation is sometimes referred to as a "melting pot." Multiculturalism, by contrast, is referred to as a "salad bowl" because all people retain their own cultures, languages, and religious practices and simply occupy the same space as everyone else, getting along despite their differences.
One of the biggest problems facing multicultural groups, which often include schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and nations, is communication. If each cultural group speaks a different language, how can they work together? Often a compromise must be made. Sometimes everyone in the group agrees to learn the same language (often the national official language). Other times communication can be handled through bilingual representatives, though this is not ideal in the case of multicultural interaction among small groups.
Multicultural groups are not free from conflict, however one of the key goals is to diffuse as much potential conflict as possible through education and understanding. Emphasis is placed on avoiding violence and bullying that can stem from bigoted attitudes. Learning about each other's cultures and encouraging each other to preserve them is a central pillar of multiculturalism. Schools will often educated teachers and students on the needs of people from other cultures and encourage them to maintain their diversity. If someone from Russia buys the house next door, you should learn about their culture and language in an effort to meet them halfway.