August 18, 2011 — Review
Written by Jenny Bourne
A new book provides all the ammunition needed to take on today’s fights against racism.
It is ironic that so many of the contributors to this book, Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide For The Movement, including those from unions, the Socialist Workers Party and the Institute of Race Relations – would not, a generation ago, have been seen dead defending multiculturalism. But in that time both the meaning of multiculturalism and the political climate have changed rapidly. In the 1970s and ’80s multiculturalism was a kind of prissy uncommitted term describing people’s right to their culture and customs. The concept avoided the more difficult idea of anti-racism which begged questions about class, power and justice. In that sense multiculturalism and anti-racism appeared to be political poles apart. Today multiculturalism is more often as not used as a dirty derisive word by Europe’s rightwing politicians conceding to their even more rightwing pressure groups’ call for both an end to immigration and a move back to a mono and Christian national culture.
Just as ‘political correctness’ was used as a euphemism by the Right to attack anti-racism, today multiculturalism, or rather its supposed failure, is a code term for ‘race’ and a whole host of different phenomena are coming under attack. Ethnic minorities are being blamed for their segregation, for their difference, for their extremism, for their unwillingness to integrate, for their Islamic faith, for undermining national values and just for their presence. Defending multiculturalism then involves fighting a rearguard action, as it were, to protect what are considerable anti-racist achievements in the UK. It means taking on not just the street thugs, who march provocatively through our towns in defence of Englishness, but also the sections of the media which day after day find ways of problematising difference and the politicians who now play the race card on the terrain of multiculturalism.
This new book contains all the arguments, information and context, historical and contemporary, needed for the battle. It has twenty-three contributions – including poems, photos, cartoons, as well as short articles – from people ranging from politicians Peter Hain and Ken Livingstone, mainstream academics such as Tariq Modood to activist thinkers such as Salma Yaqoob, Liz Fekete, Billy Hayes and Weyman Bennett. This collection makes a very accessible educational tool for anyone needing to understand the parameters of racism and the possibilities for resisting it.
Buy a copy of Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide For The Movement here
Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide For The Movement edited by Hassan Mahamdallie is available from Bookmarks.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.
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