Discuss multiculturalism within a genre of film.
Develop a topic. How do you mean to discuss multiculturalism: would you prefer to work within a specific genre of film (Disney movies? Westerns? Action-adventure?), or would you prefer to work within a different medium (comic books? advertising? sports? — note: this is not the time for a paper about Jackie Robinson, but the question of why no African American managerial candidates have yet been interviewed during the baseball offseason would be relevant)? From there, you will be researching how the debate about multiculturalism/diversity/inclusion is relevant. Remember that this does not apply only to race; gender, sexuality, and religion are all viable topics.
In sociology, multiculturalism describes the manner in which a given society deals with cultural diversity. Based on the underlying assumption that members of often very different cultures can coexist peacefully, multiculturalism expresses the view that society is enriched by preserving, respecting, and even encouraging cultural diversity. In the area of political philosophy, multiculturalism refers to the ways in which societies choose to formulate and implement official policies dealing with the equitable treatment of different cultures.
Multiculturalism can take place on a nationwide scale or within a nation’s communities. It may occur either naturally through immigration, or artificially when jurisdictions of different cultures are combined through legislative decree, as in the case of French and English Canada.
Proponents of multiculturalism believe that people should retain at least some features of their traditional cultures. Opponents say that multiculturalism threatens the social order by diminishing the identity and influence of the predominant culture. While acknowledging that it is a sociopolitical issue, this article will focus on the sociological aspects of multiculturalism.
The two primary theories or models of multiculturalism as the manner in which different cultures are integrated into a single society are best defined by the metaphors commonly used to describe them—the “melting pot” and the “salad bowl” theories.
The melting pot theory of multiculturalism assumes that various immigrant groups will tend to “melt together,” abandoning their individual cultures and eventually becoming fully assimilated into the predominant society. Typically used to describe the assimilation of immigrants into the United States, the melting pot theory is often illustrated by the metaphor of a foundry’s smelting pots in which the elements iron and carbon are melted together to create a single, stronger metal—steel. In 1782, French-American immigrant J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote that in America, “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”
The melting pot model has been criticized for reducing diversity, causing people to lose their traditions, and for having to be enforced through governmental policy. For example, the U.S. Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 forced the assimilation of nearly 350,000 Indigenous peoples into American society without any regard for the diversity of their heritages and lifestyles.
A more liberal theory of multiculturalism than the melting pot, the salad bowl theory describes a heterogeneous society in which people coexist but retain at least some of the unique characteristics of their traditional culture. Like a salad’s ingredients, different cultures are brought together, but rather than coalescing into a single homogeneous culture, retain their own distinct flavors. In the United States, New York City, with its many unique ethnic communities like “Little India,” “Little Odessa,” and “Chinatown” is considered an example of a salad bowl society.
The salad bowl theory asserts that it is not necessary for people to give up their cultural heritage in order to be considered members of the dominant society. For example, African Americans do not need to stop observing Kwanzaa rather than Christmas in order to be considered “Americans.”
On the negative side, the cultural differences encouraged by the salad bowl model can divide a society resulting in prejudice and discrimination. In addition, critics point to a 2007 study conducted by American political scientist Robert Putnam showing that people living in salad bowl multicultural communities were less likely to vote or volunteer for community improvement projects.