I read something that really confused me in the paper the other day. It said that 80% of the people of New York city are minorities…… Shouldn’t you not call them minorities when they get to be 80% of the population. – Louis C.K.
As a “minority,” I find this to be an insightful reflection on diversity in the United States. While statistically, groups such as African American, Latin American, Asian, Muslim, European and others are still found in smaller percentages in the country, multicultural influence goes beyond population statistics. The impact multicultural groups have had on the U.S. in areas such as pop culture, economics, politics, and education, among others, has shaped American culture in multiple ways .
During the last few decades, the call for more realistic representations of multi-cultural individuals in the media has become louder. Universities, businesses and other organizations have made it a top priority to recruit minorities in order to achieve demands for greater diversity. The last decade has seen an increase in bilingual speakers, where a quarter of U.S. citizens can hold a conversation with a person in a language other than English. Minority impact is real and will continue to grow.
However, there is still a general underestimation in the U.S. of the extent of minority influence. Too often when we speak of minorities, we term them a “special interest group,” as if our interests and views are shared by an obscure portion of the population. As a member of a minority group (Hispanic), I sometimes feel groups that attempt to recruit minorities, despite their good intentions, still consider multicultural individuals as “separate” or more difficult to relate to, than we actually are.
While it is nice to see public schools and other institutions attempt to recognize different ethnicities by showcasing various aspects of culture such as food, art, dance, and movies during different times of the year, minority individuals can sometimes perceive this as an attempt to “try too hard” by overly representing different aspects of different cultures. At the same time, it might seem they’re not trying hard enough by failing to understand elements of minority culture that go beyond these aspects, such as racial issues, migrant history, politics, religion, and history. There is still this pervasive idea that while recognizing different races and cultures is important, we still only register minorities as that: a “minor” influence, and attempt to pay homage to said influence with the obligatory Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Week in elementary schools.
What we need in America is an honest dialogue on multicultural influence in the country. It would be highly beneficial to place a greater emphasis on exploring other cultures and recognizing their views as valid, rather than foreign or “exotic.” Multicultural cultures should not be idealized nor maligned, just genuinely explored. Strategies such as learning a new language, researching a different country, becoming more knowledgeable on U.S. foreign policy, and keeping up to date with international news, would enable a greater understanding of the role of diversity in the United States. A greater appreciation and understanding of the multicultural elements present in American culture would provide greater insight on issues such as economics, education and immigration in the United States.
The fact is, multicultural individuals are now a permanent part of America’s cultural make-up. The time has come for America to recognize minority influence beyond college demographics and voting ballots. Only when we stop considering minorities as “minor influences,” can we understand both how American culture is changing, and how the world around us is evolving.