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Intolerance through Multiculturalism

Menlo School is thoroughly imbued with a quality that we call multiculturalism. In short, this is the belief in the necessity of a conglomeration of various cultures and their various beliefs for forming a more varied interpretation of "life in general." This spirit comes to view through many varied events: the MAC wall; the fact that the MAC advisor has few other duties and therefore has the opportunity more than other teachers to devote his time to that operation; the many speeches of various administrators at the dedication of that wall and at other subsequent assemblies, meetings, and so on; the emphasis in Menlo's community service endeavors to reach out to other understandings of the world; the emphasis of freshman history and English classes on the world's various cultures and viewpoints. Menlo is a school devoted to the fallacious theory of "strength through diversity."

I do not mean to say that multiculturalism is bad. It is generally not. This idea can be a force against discrimination, a force to destroy racism and other such generally acknowledged evils. Various parts of the freshman history curriculum, for example, are useful, especially those relating to early religions and their significance to modern international relations. In fact, I openly support many manifestations of this multiculturalist spirit at Menlo.

But there are two items with which I must beg to differ, which stand out as needing attention. These are the cases in which multiculturalism has been taken too far.

The first and by far the most worrying is a new club formed this week, the "Indian Club." It has been formed on a purportedly multicultural basis: to promote understanding of Indian values in the Menlo community. At first sight, this appears to be a well-based goal, grounded in true multicultural spirit, that of cooperation between people with differing world-views. But it is not so. I have searched for members of this club, those planning to attend the first meeting -- all are Indians by birth. These are not people trying to understand Indian perspectives despite American preconceptions. It is worrying that such a discriminatory club might exist on campus; on inquiring into whether I could attend, being a typically "White Anglo-Saxon Atheist," I was told that "it's for Indians, but you can come, [we] guess."

And yet I should still not have any outrage in this point were it not for another fact which ought to be brought into view. Administrators have not stated how ludicrous such a club in truth remains, yet one at least has disapproved when asked about the possibility of forming a WASA [see above] club, for those of opinions similar to mine. It is discrimination, then, that whites might have a club, yet any such organization perpetrated by Indians is socially acceptable. It is almost as if any group founded for reviewing the peculiar problems of white atheists is automatically equated with something akin to the Ku Klux Klan. What can this attitude itself be called but racism, the antithesis of the multiculturalism the Indian Club purports to represent?

And then there is the point of the MAC wall. I do not mean to insult, and I do not mean to infringe upon the sensibilities of any MAC members. Nonetheless it could not escape notice that a certain speaker at the dedication of that art work stated explicitly that nothing European appeared on such a "multicultural" wall. This can be nothing but inflammatory naivete on the part of that speaker -- multiculturalism is not a doctrine of exclusion of one set of ideas in favor of another: it is a doctrine of inclusion.

Neither of these clubs are condemned through my words; I aim not to criticize, but only to point out contradictions in the rosy philosophy of this institution. That Menlo can tolerate views which differ from its own is clarified through The Subterranean Crusader; but whether its students can understand and internalize these discussions is another point entirely.

By John Earl

This page created for The Subterranean Crusader by John W. Earl. Last modified January 28, 1996.