Abena Joan Brown (1992)

Generally, I have not entered into the proliferation of dialogue on these words “cultural diversity” or “multiculturalism,” except to say that they are euphemisms intended to diminish/to obscure/to maintain control over the thrust toward self-determination, self-definition as expressed in rising cultural specificity. In short these words — the “buzz words” of the Nineties — are a form of historical redundancy, a way of continuing the monologue in the Eurocentric community about what to do with/relate to the other groups who live in America.

Since every group, except the so-called “Native American,” came here from somewhere else either by choice, chance or coercion, there is no doubt that there are many — more than one — cultural groupings in the country. That these distinct racial groups brought with them to the shores of America a whole set of cultural traditions, art forms, norms, and values which are expressed in life style is true and should be obvious. The real question is one of cultural hegemony which most Euro-Americans hold sacred and have created institutions to insure its perpetuation.

The rising tide of cultural-specific institutions, speaking in their “own voice,” is a threat to the status quo, particularly as one examines and understands the changing demographics of this country and the world. Therefore, Euro-Americans who define themselves as the “mainstream” seek to maintain this paradigm with themselves at the center as the “prevailing current or direction of a movement or influence.” Sorry! If anything, the issue is one of pluralism that is by definition, “the belief that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life.”

I will close with the words of an icon. Alice B. Toklas was reputed to have asked Gertrude Stein, who was on her death bed, “What is the answer?” Ms. Stein’s reply was: “What is the question?”

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