Our globalalized societies now require new knowledge and understanding that we are not alone. In order to survive today politically, socially, and economically it is important to understand and learn more about other cultures that surround us. This new knowledge is called multiculturalism, and it has grown exponentially in strength and importance in the last two decades through immigration and the globalized economy.
How can we define multiculturalism?
Multiculturalism addresses the interest, need, and obligation to establish certain criteria and procedures in order to recongize the numerous cultural differences that exist within modern societies. Multicultural politics are public policies that address principles of equality and of differences in political liberalism (and here we understand why the more conservative factions in our government struggle with this topic).
According to Bolivia´s Juan Enrique Vega´s article "Diversity, Equality, and Exclusion. Multiculturalism and Democracy: Promises and problems", in developed countries, antidiscriminatory legislations are promoted via social and gender quotas that search to generate in the short term tolerance and equal opportunities for minorities that would be otherwise excluded.
According to results published by the program "A Multicultural Nation", established by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), only 10% of all countries in the world are ethnically homogeous. And of these, only 50% contain an ethnic group that will account for three quarters of the entire population. In the particular case of Latin America, there are approximately 400 different Indian groups, within a population of over 30 million people.
In the United States, a nation formed basically of immigrants from many different nations, multiculturalism is particularly important.
In the case of Michigan, local universities today recognize the urgency to address multiculturalism within the state, and have created programs to deal with different cultures. Among them there is the Program for Multicultural Health (PMCH), a new unit of the University of Michigan Health System committed to reduce health disparities among cultural populations; the Center for Multicultural Affairs in Eastern Michigan University; the Multicultural Advancement and Lloyd Cofer Scholars Residential College at Central Michigan University; the Division of Multicultural Affairs at Western Michigan University; the Multicultural Leader Scholarship Program at Western Michigan University; and the Consortium for Multicultural Psychology Research and Multicultural Business Programs at Michigan State University.
Cities in Michigan are also promoting multiculturalism in a serious way.
Grand Rapids, MI, has created a website through the Grand Rapids Public Museum --one of the oldest museums in the United States -- which tells the story of several of the many cultural groups that settled in the area (after the original Anishinabek Indians), among these, people from Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
With its large multicultural population, the City of Farmington, MI, has created a Multicultural and Multiracial Community Council of Farmington and Farmington Hills (that includes citizens, students, government and school officials) and adopted six basic principles to maintain harmony, and a healthy environment in Farmington schools and neighborhoods:
1.Racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity in the community must be respected, nurtured, and celebrated;
2. The belief tht healthy communities maintain a comprehensive and balanced program of services which are open and accessible to all citizens;
3. The belief in equal education opportunities;
4. The believe in equal employment opportunities;
5. The belief in equal access to housing; and
6. The belief in equally safe neighborhoods.
Multiculturalism, which aims to create understanding and harmony among different cultures, in reality is not a totally new idea. The term was created in the United States during the second half of the 20th Century, and the Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization of the United Nations has, since its inception more than 50 years ago, has continously promoted respect for cultural diversity around the world -- and these efforts are particularly important today in 2014.