Ideas on diversity, multiculturalism and their value to our culture

We must realize our personal struggles are interconnected — Multiculturalism is necessary until we have equality

>We must realize our personal struggles are interconnected

This is both a direct response to Nick Woomer’s ” ‘Celebrating diversity’ is a recipe for disaster” (opinion, Feb. 28), and an indirect response to the recent discussion regarding the “homosexual lifestyle” that has been ongoing in The Minnesota Daily.

Two things: 1) identity politics and multiculturalism are not the same thing, and 2) as a gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights activist, I have to say I am pretty disappointed to see that there have been many more responses to Michael Wallen’s statements (“Homosexuality in the light of truth: life’s issues in practice”) from the same day’s paper than there have been to Woomer’s attack on multiculturalism.

Identity politics and multiculturalism are not the same thing. While I tend to personally agree that identity politics might not be as effective as other ways of organizing resistance, I do not think that multiculturalism, particularly with regard to the creation of “safe spaces,” can or should be equated with identity politics. These spaces exist because oppression is very real.

One only needs to count the number of recent anti-Semitic, racist, sexist and homophobic incidents (mostly involving graffiti) to realize that this campus is not as safe a place for some people as it is for others. Safe spaces exist for marginalized groups, not to segregate, but to allow for community building around shared experiences of identity and oppression, and yes, to build self esteem and reinforce pride in ourselves and our cultural backgrounds and histories.

I was also appalled that Wallen equated same-sex relationships to humping a chair. I agree that a response that reminded us same-sex relationships are just as much about emotional and spiritual love as heterosexual relationships are was necessary. I applaud those who responded to bring these issues to light.

But I am disappointed that nothing so far has addressed the ways that Wallen’s and Woomer’s statements support each other. Both are evidence of the invisibility of oppression to those who do not directly experience it. Marginalized groups demand respect from the dominant group, not solely because of its difference, as Woomer states in his article, but because marginalized groups have experienced systematic, institutional disrespect and violence by the dominant group throughout history.

The work of the left now needs to focus on bridging the gaps that exist between our various marginalized communities. The work of the left now is to unlearn our internalized oppression, which has been built into the very structure of our society so skillfully that it is virtually invisible to those who don’t personally experience it. This oppression works to systematically divide us (as we saw only one response to Woomer’s attack on multiculturalism and a number of responses to Wallen’s “wood-sexual” comments).

Our individual struggles will never be successful in the way that the civil rights movement and the second wave of feminism have been unless we can realize that our individual struggles are interconnected.

We cannot overcome racism without overcoming classism. We cannot overcome heterosexism without overcoming sexism. We cannot achieve true equality until each one of us can look deep within ourselves and recognize the ways we oppress each other, regardless of the ways we have experienced oppression.

John Buchholz is a University undergraduate. Please send comments to [email protected]

Multiculturalism is necessary until we have equality

As I wait earnestly for Nick Woomer’s (” ‘Celebrating diversity’ is a recipe for disaster,” opinion, Feb. 28) self-proposed solution to multiculturalism, I would like to educate the lad on certain issues that opponents of multiculturalism such as Woomer consciously take for granted. One, that the term “multiculturalism” is simply nothing but a new term to an unfortunately old phenomenon.

Minorities would not demand equality if the dominant race has not shown acute signs of differences and superiority. In the case of the black American, these were not mere signs of superiority but an outright disdain and hatred for a race, who the “proud” whites felt were incapable of the simplest logical thought simply because they were Africans.

The pseudoscientific Darwinian theory and descendants of Ham theories provided a false means of highlighting the differences and superiority of the white race. Opponents of multiculturalism simply take this with a pinch of salt. Celebrating diversity has been the legacy of the dominant race and not the marginalized ones.

This is in fact the same theory that was used to colonize Africa; so in essence, self-serving anti-multiculturalists would have people believe that the system started in the early 1940s by minority groups, where as in reality, it started centuries ago and became worse until the minorities realized the effectiveness of highlighting their own self-pride.

Woomer’s note eventually reveals that multiculturalism was “understandable”; I say it was essential and pivotal to the existence and survival of the changes that the black American has realized over the last few years. But to say it is no more relevant hinges not on the exploitative political parties in the United States, which to the black American are simply two sides of the same coin, but on true equality, unblemished by rhetoric and cowardice as is seen from most quarters of our political, social and economic system.

To say multiculturalism is unnecessary is to say that we have attained a level of equality unmarred by bigotry that is still the order of the day in the United States.

That Woomer could compare white supremacist groups with black Americans proposing such equality is regrettably senseless. I will not react in this piece to such incoherence; neither will I react to The Minnesota Daily’s ability to interpret the English language or lack thereof.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who introduced Black History Month (originally as a Negro History Week) in February 1926, wanted an avenue where the achievements of Africans were recognized. This was not “solely because of its differences and distinctness” as Woomer has stated. It was indeed Woodson’s vision that Black History Month would cease to be celebrated in as much as Africans are given the recognition and credit that is due them. This is not the case.

So while I wait for Woomer’s solution to an 18th century problem, I hope that he says something a little better than the Republican President George W. Bush, who would rather scrap affirmative action but is indifferent to colleges admitting students based on alumni preferences.

Olufemi A. Kolawole is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Please send comments to [email protected]