In my previous blog, I had written about how a national identity that emphasizes negative differences between two groups can lead to conflict. One such criterion used to define one's national identity is stooped within racism. This racism can be either explicit or implicit - as is the case with structural violence. In addition, sheer ignorance of the manner by which a different culture functions can also lead to conflict. The multicultural movement, on the other hand, seeks to neutralize such ignorance and racism with a respectful, tolerant worldview. Even when multicultural policies are fully supported by the populace, support can erode when an overt assault on the prevailing national identity is perceived.
In essence, multiculturalism is the idea that "equality between and respect for the pluralism of cultures and group identities" will lead to less conflict (Verkuyten). While there are disagreements as to how this philosophy can be most effectively incorporated into society, the basic definition still stands. Such movements, however, are dismissed as being ineffective in the regions that could benefit most from a multicultural education. This perceived ineffectiveness is the result of the unwillingness by the majority populace to have the superiority of their culture challenged (Breugelmans). Simply put, “policies that deviate too much from [public] opinion will not be supported” (Breugelmans).
Even if a multicultural policy is initially favored by the majority populace, overt threats to the national identity can quickly erode support. Such was the case with the Netherlands which, initially, was the primary supporter of the multicultural movement after having implemented policies that encouraged immigrants to participate in the government. After several international and national incidents occured - such as the September 11th terrorist attacks, the London train bombings, and the assassination of Netherland celebrity Theo van Gogh and politician Pim Fortuyn (Breugelmans) - support quickly deteriorated. All of these attacks were instigated by radical Islamic terrorists thereby aggravating the perceived threat against the majority Netherland's national identity. Such a profound effect can be observed via a series of surveys that have addressed the multicultural attitudes of the Dutch populace between 1999 and 2007. These survey's, based off of the Multicultural Attitude Scale (MAS) examined the acceptance of multiculturalism in four domains: support for "Diversity in the Netherlands", "Acculturation by Minorities", "Majority Support for Minorities", and "Equal Rights and Interaction" (Breugelmans).For all of the domains except for "Acculturation by Minorities", results showed that on a seven-point scale, the Dutch populace was in favor of multiculturalism. The mean value of these domains resulted in a score of 3.97 out of 7 in 1999. The MAS continued to rise until the time period between 2004 and 2006 marking the Madrid bombings, the assassination of Van Gogh, and the London bombings. At this point the scale had suddenly dropped from 4.11 to 3.19. Fortunately, however, as time continued without any imminent terrorist threats, the MAS indicated that attitudes toward multiculturalism had reached a high of 4.67 in 2007.
It would appear that initial steps in favor of a multicultural climate can be credited for the swift recovery of the Netherlands on the Multicultural Attitude Scale. This recovery stands in stark contrast to the actions of America, such as the invasion of Iraq, after the September 11th attacks where lingering racism and bigotry toward Arabs and Muslims have yet to fully subside. Perhaps the key reason as to why both nations reacted so differently lies with the self-fulfilling prophecy. Just as I have written about how the defeatist mentality that “war is inevitable” acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy, so it is with the equally destructive mentality that one’s culture or race demands more respect and acceptance then that of another culture or race.
Breugelmans, Seger M., Fons J.R. van de Vijver, and Saskia G.S. Schalk-Soekar. “Stability of Majority Attitudes toward Multiculturalism in the Netherlands between 1999 and 2007.” Applied Psychology: An International Review 58.4 (2009): 653-671
Verkuyten, Maykel. “Social Psychology and Multiculturalism.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 1.1 (2007): 280-297