Living with Our Differences   /   Spring 2001   /    Articles

From Multiculturalism to Diversity

Nathan Glazer

Image from Chinese New Year Celebration in Washington DC, 2016. Image by S Pakhrin.

In the last several years, the term “diversity” has arisen to replace the somewhat too provocative and forceful “multiculturalism,” but it refers to very much the same thing. The use of the different term has not changed the widespread sense that there has been a big change in the United States. We have always had groups of different race, ethnicity, and culture, but these were all expected to merge into a common American people. The various ethnic groups and nonwhite races were subordinated socially and culturally, and for a long time politically too, and accepted their subordination. Today each demands respect and the acknowledgment of its presence as a fully accepted and fully participating part of the American people, American society, and American polity. They demand this acceptance even when their culture, which may be different in some respects from the majority culture, is retained. The assumption behind the claim to multicultural equality or to acceptance of diversity is not that differences will merge and disappear, but that they will continue, and continue with some degree of public support.

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