May 23, 2002
Cultural sensitivity for thee, but not for me?

A discussion at work today started a thought in my head—one that begs to be aired. It's not politically correct, but then again, a lot of what I have to say isn't popular with the beautiful people.

The military organization to which I am attached deploys overseas on a regular basis. One of the places to which we occasionally deploy is Saudi Arabia. Before we deploy there, we are given a thorough briefing on the culture and mores of their brand of Islam, and are expected to adhere to a fairly rigorous set of restrictions, in order to avoid offending our hosts. (Similar restrictions are laid out for any military forces that visit the region, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates.) Until recently, American women stationed in Saudi Arabia had to wear an abaya (a head-to-toe robe) when they left the confines of the military base, and had to travel with a male (and in the back seat of the car) when off-base. Legal restrictions such as these, in our country, would be blocked as unconstitutional in a heartbeat (and rightly so). However, they are the law of the land in Saudi Arabia.

In any case, all of these restrictions are deployed in the name of "cultural sensitivity". Fair enough—we are in their country, and we should follow their rules. I may not agree with the restrictions (or their religious context), but it is common courtesy to adapt to the laws and customs of a country that one is visiting or residing).

However, when we return to the US, we discover that we are expected to make exceptions for Islamic immigrants and other immigrant groups, again in the name of "cultural sensitivity". What about sensitivity to OUR culture? The multi-cultists claim that they are trying to reinforce the notion that no culture is superior to another (a notion which I disagree with, in and of itself), but their actions seem to indicate that they believe any culture is superior to our own, as long as it isn't European or patriarchal. Those who dare to disagree with their aims are branded racist, sexist, religiously intolerant, or xenophobic (or a combination of these terms).

This debate-in-my-mind recalls the agenda Pim Fortuyn was advocating. He advocated restrictions on immigration because he was afraid that his country's culture (one of the most tolerant in the world) would be destroyed by those who immigrated to the Netherlands, yet steadfastly refused to assimilate, to adopt the values of the country to which they had moved. Holland is not alone is this regard—Germany, France, Belgium, and Sweden all have large immigrant populations that retain their culture, and form an underclass in their societies.

The same could be said of the United States, where Latinos and Asians who immigrate and assimilate prosper, but those who do not suffer from stagnant wages and lack political currency. Previous waves of immigration brought people who were unskilled, illiterate, and ignorant of English, but they ensured their children grew up as Americans, rather than Irish, or Greek, or Italian, or Dutch, or whatever. It is only in the past 30 years, with the rise of multiculturalism (the multi-cult), that this trend has changed. Now, immigrants are encouraged to "retain their heritage", rather than adapt to and enrich our American culture. The result is staggeringly high dropout rates, high unemployment, elevated crime levels in their communities, and more calls for reduced immigration. Immigration isn't the problem, lack of acculturization is the problem. It won't be solved until the hyphenated-American ethnic pressure groups stop destroying the urge to assimilate our new American citizens.

posted on May 23, 2002 05:26 PM


Isn't this sort of post hoc? I mean, yes, we've had Mandatory Diversity, or whatever the hell it is, for about thirty years, and no doubt there are recent arrivals who are not doing well, but I'm finding it just a little difficult to believe that their troubles are entirely the result of residual unassimilated ethnicity. Did I miss something? (Admittedly, it wouldn't be the first time if I did.)

posted by CGHill on May 26, 2002 10:41 AM

I wasn't trying to pin the problems of immigrants entirely on multiculturalism, or entirely upon a lack of assimilation. They are certainly elements of the problem (perhaps a large part), but other problems, including a small but significant xenophobic element, contribute to their problems.

What cannot be disputed, however, is the fact that many of the most strident advocates of awareness of other cultures in this country expect us to conform to other cultures wherever we go. It is a thinly veiled form of anti-Americanism, dressed up with a high-sounding name but offensive all the same.

posted by scutum on May 26, 2002 11:07 AM

You got that right. I have never quite understood "We must respect all cultures but our own", but there are people who believe exactly that, and you've got to wonder what sort of nonsense they'll come up with next.

posted by CGHill on May 26, 2002 08:25 PM

I am so glad to find this website, as I believe wholeheartedly with your views. The Mexican, or Latino culture is the largest growing population here in Atlanta. I am constantly bombarded with other cultures, and I believe that it creates a stressor in our own culture, as Americans.When you have 10-20 different languages thrown at you each day and you are trying to figure out what each group is saying, or try to get service from someone who doesn't understand what you're saying, it creates stress for me! These people, by the hundreds, are taking manual labor jobs, which sqeeze out employment opportunities for the lower class Americans, and not only that, but they work for cash,for half the normal wage, do not pay taxes, and live in multifamily housing, meaning 4-6 families per household, which has contributed to an excess of available housing, and shortages in income from that sector of our economy.I am trying to write a paper for Anthropology which might include some of the problems posed here. If any of you know of a source for a journal that might help me, please email that information

posted by sally on September 17, 2003 03:08 PM

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