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Tina Campt and the Failures of Multiculturalism

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A multiculturalist project that focuses on difference as something that people ‘are’ or ‘have,’ and which is the root or source of their discrimination overlooks the fact that differences are themselves produced by power and through discrimination.

I came across this quotes as I was working on a paper about children of the occupation of Germany. I’ll have to tuck it away for the day I get around to looking at the mixed-race children of American servicemembers during the Cold War era. While this historical analysis does not offer the solutions to out racial problems, it does tell us we are in dire need of a new lines of inquiry. Because, however we’re currently framing race just isn’t good enough.

So much for post-racial America? More like “So much for multicultural America.”

“For in attempting to ‘pluralize’ who we think of as either Americans or Germans by highlighting the existence of ethnic and minority populations such as African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, or Native Americans in the United States, or Black Germans and German Turks in the Federal Republic, these terms often have the effect of reducing these individuals to fixed categories of identification that not only fail to reflect the complicated experiences and positioning of these individuals in the respective societies, but also mask the hierarchies and asymmetries of power that structure their circumstances socially, politically, materially, and discursively. A multiculturalist project that focuses on difference as something that people ‘are’ or ‘have,’ and which is the root or source of their discrimination overlooks the fact that differences are themselves produced by power and through discrimination. Discrimination itself is an integral part of the process through which norms of superiority, inferiority, and universality are established, inscribed, and institutionalized.”

– Tina Campt, “Reading the Black German Experience: An Introduction,” Callaloo 26, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 290.

So much for post-racial America? More like “So much for multicultural America.”

Allan Branstiter is a writer and Ph.D. student studying U.S. History at the University of Southern Mississippi. Currently residing in Los Angeles, California, he is writing a dissertation examining the experiences of Civil War veterans in the American West. He is a veteran of the Iraq War and a former candidate for the North Dakota State Senate.

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