Asymmetrical Multiculturalism

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Fear of “white nationalism” is very much in vogue, but Reihan Salam is skeptical that Donald Trump’s rise represents the ascendency of a resentful white wing of the American right:

Nevertheless, I believe that white identity politics is indeed going to become a more potent force in the years to come, for the simple reason that non-Hispanic whites are increasingly aware of the fact that they are destined to become a minority of all Americans. According to current projections, that day will come in 2044. Non-Hispanic whites will become a minority of eligible voters a few years later, in 2052. According to States of Change, a report by Ruy Teixeira, William H. Frey, and Robert Griffin, California and Texas are set to join Hawaii and New Mexico in having majority-minority electorates in the next few years, and several other states will follow in the 2030s.

Why does it matter that in the near future, non-Hispanic whites will become a minority in one state after another? The most obvious reason is that non-Hispanic whites might lose their sense of security. They will be outnumbered and outvoted. If they remain wealthier than average, as seems likely, they might fear that majority-minority constituencies will vote to redistribute their wealth. Over time, they might resent seeing their cultural symbols give way to those of minority communities—which is to say the cultural symbols of other minority communities.

In a 1916 essay in the Atlantic, Randolph Bourne, at the time one of America’s leading left-wing intellectuals, attacked the melting-pot ideal, in which immigrants to the United States and their descendants were expected to assimilate into a common culture. He saw instead America evolving into “a cosmopolitan federation of national colonies, of foreign cultures, from whom the sting of devastating competition has been removed.” Instead of forging a common American identity, the country he envisioned would be one where members of minority ethnic groups preserved their cultural separateness.

To fully realize this ideal, however, it was vitally important that Anglo-Saxon Americans not assert themselves in the same way as the members of other ethnic groups. Why? Because if Anglo-Saxon Americans were to celebrate their identity as a people with longstanding ties to their American homeland, it would implicitly discount the American-ness of those from minority ethnic backgrounds. For Bourne, and for those who’ve advocated for his brand of cultural pluralism since, it is the obligation of Anglo-Saxon Americans, and other white Americans with no strong ties to a non-American homeland, to be post-ethnic cosmopolitans. But what if being a post-ethnic cosmopolitan is not actually that satisfying?

In his highly inventive 2004 book The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, the sociologist Eric Kaufmann calls this bargain “asymmetrical multiculturalism.” Under asymmetrical multiculturalism, minority ethnic groups are encouraged to assert their group identities and to defend their group interests while the majority ethnic group is strongly discouraged from doing the same. Overt expressions of Jewish, Mexican, Laotian, or Bengali pride are very welcome. Overt expressions of WASP pride, however, are not. Kaufmann maintains that because WASPs, and to a lesser extent other whites, are denied the option of celebrating their ethnic heritage, they instead champion essentially ideological ideas, like individualism or a vague, ill-defined belief in “American exceptionalism” that is bereft of any real cultural content.

It should go without saying that white Americans have been quite effective at advancing their interests, even without overt expressions of ethnic pride. You could cynically suggest that it is all well and good for Bengalis to have their Bengali pride as long as whites have all their power. The majority does not need to assert itself, as members of the majority can be serenely confident that their interests will always be served. The trouble is that this serenity is much harder to maintain as majority-group status slips away.


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    Fun fact from Ann Coulter’s War on America Turns 50:

    Republicans should be sweeping the country, but they aren’t, because of Kennedy’s immigration law. Without post-1965 immigrants bloc-voting for the Democrats, Obama never would have been elected president, and Romney would have won a bigger landslide against him in 2012 than Reagan did against Carter in 1980.

    This isn’t a guess; it’s a provable fact. Obama beat Romney by less than 5 million votes in a presidential election in which about 125 million votes were cast. More than 30 million of Obama’s votes came from people who arrived under Teddy Kennedy’s immigration law; fewer than 10 million of Romney’s did.

    With the media cheering the end of America and businessmen determined to keep importing cheap labor, Democrats don’t even bother hiding what they’re doing.

  2. Max says:

    “non-Hispanic whites are increasingly aware of the fact that they are destined to become a minority of all Americans.”

    Non-Hispanic whites are increasingly aware of the fact that they are destined to slaughter every single last non-white American (ESPECIALLY Reihan Salam) in order to avoid becoming a minority in the country their forefathers built.

    I, for one, am not looking forward to it. Especially the part where we slowly torture Reihan Salam to death over a period of several years. That is going to be a horrifying and disturbing spectacle. He has my sympathy.

  3. Djolds1 says:

    1) Max. Therapy. And medication. Lots of medication. Maybe just the medication and forget the therapy.

    2) Salem’s cognitive dissonance is interesting. On the one hand he admits that “whites” are passing as the majority culture, but a few paragraphs later invokes “whites” as the apparently enduring majority culture.

    “White” certainly isn’t an ethnic group. Its a cultural group that is a fusion of the various immigrant waves that followed and conformed to the exemplar of the initial English colonists. If assimilation remains even mildly effective, Hispanics will assimilate to “cultural white” just like all previous waves of immigrants. It doesn’t really matter if the group continues to be called “white” or renames itself “cafe au lait,” what matters is the unifying asabiyyah rooted in the English colonial experience.

    OTOH, if the Randolph Bourne vision has won out, American asabiyyah has collapsed and we now face a balkanized state of competing racial factions. Certainly the scheduled racial benefits accruing to all races (EXCEPT “white”) push in that direction, and are akin to the racial schedules of Apartheid era South Africa. That state of affairs can be managed for a good long time on a divide et impera basis, but it is a model incapable of further greatness, and will eventually collapse in blood.

  4. Kudzu Bob says:

    If assimilation remains even mildly effective, Hispanics will assimilate to “cultural white” just like all previous waves of immigrants.

    Steve Sailer and others often cite the work of Edward Telles and Vilma Ortiz, who point out in their book Generations of Exclusion that second-generation Mexican-Americans do better than their parents do in terms of assimilation, income, and education, but that afterward third- and fourth-generation Mexican-Americans do worse. For whatever reason, Mexican-Americans seem immune to the magic of the Melting Pot.

    Also, to say that “all previous waves of immigrants” have assimilated to “cultural white” is absurd, as a visit to the nearest black neighborhood will demonstrate.

    Data always trump theory.

  5. T M says:

    Djolds1. Vermouth. And Vodka. Lots of vodka. Maybe just vodka, forget the vermouth.

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