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Pedro Tanaka Professor Finnegan English 1A 19 March 2009 Multiculturalism in California The election of the first African American president brought to light questions about how multicultural is the land that Obama considered as always a land of immigrants (Staff). In What is Multiculturalism?, Gregory Jay discusses the different meanings that multiculturalism have in each context. As a prominent writer Jay points out, [the] divisions between cultural groups are less the voluntary decisions of individuals that the product of discrimination and bigotry in the operation of the economy and the social institutions (Jay 58). In making this statement, Jay argues that segregation forces individuals to take a side independently of their will. Moreover, Jay claims that, differently from identity political, multiculturalism does not label individuals as members of just one ethnic group. He notes that [r]ecent proponents of multiculturalism, indeed, have emphasized the multiculturalism within each individual (Jay 59). Jays point is that one person can be a member of many groups. For instance, a man can perceive himself at one moment as a Latino and at other moment as a Republican. In the book The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican American, Stephen J. Pitti exposes the history of discrimination that Mexican Americans experienced in California. Pitti states, Francis Palacious was one San Josean who remembers having been discouraged by high school counselors from going to college, and thousands like her

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simply moved into low-wage electronics assembly jobs in the new Silicon Valley from the 1970s through the 1990s (Pitti 177). The essence of Pittis argument is that racial stereotypes play a key role in defining the work position that these kids are going to have in the future. In facing the evident discrimination that Mexican Americans received, they started to organize themselves in political groups, like the black political movements, to fight for their rights. Furthermore, in chapter 8, Pitti asserts that ethnic Mexicans became more active in local educational institutions, Mexicanos and Mexican Americans found in local colleges the public forum for their opinions that had often eluded the CSO and the NFLU a decade ago (Pitti 178). Pittis point is that Mexicans and Mexican Americans finally found places where they could develop and propagate their visions of the mainstream society. Nonetheless, these groups often encountered resistance from new immigrants that still were attached to their mother culture. As Pitti points out, Chicano cultural nationalism held little meaning for those transplanted en masse from places like Aguililla, Michoacn, to Valley municipalities like Redwood City, particularly since most remained in close contact with their home patrias chicas. New technologies helped immigrants maintain their pulsing ties to home regions (Pitti 191). In other words, Pitti believes that due to technological advancements in the area of telecommunication, the Chicano movement lost power because the new immigrants kept their old cultures. Agreeing with Pittis depiction of a partially multicultural California, Pierette HondagneuSotelo brings to light the reality of Latina nannies in southern California. In Maid in L.A., Hondagneu-Sotelo describes accounts of nannies who suffered discrimination and cultural shock when they started working in the United States. Hondagneu-Sotelo observes that [t]he best paid live-in employee whom [she] interviewed was Patricia Paredes, a Mexicana who spoke impeccable English and who had legal status, substantial experience, and reference (Hondagneu-Sotelo 123).

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Hondagneu-Sotelo shows that those workers who melted in the American culture receive the best salaries. In contrast to the place depicted by Rawls California Dream of opportunity and success, warmth, sunshine and beauty, health and long life, freedom, and even a foretaste of the future (Rawls 23), California has, in fact, been a land marked by discrimination and injustices. The accounts described in The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican American and Maid in L.A. challenge Jays definition of multiculturalism. Accordingly, California is not multicultural. Racial discrimination continues to exist in California. Conflicting with the definition of multiculturalism, the racism present in the Golden State is a barrier to integration and development. As Pitti points out, [t]heir [, Latinos,] labor remained tough, low-paid, and often dangerous. Janitors like Jose Celis were instructed to clean bathrooms with a solvent that dissolved his gloves, and employees like Leonarda Pineda was fired when she rebuffed her foremans sexual propositions (Pitti 177). This quote shows the entire disregard that some minorities experience from members of the dominant culture. Even though this prejudice is usually hidden, it affects the lives of many minorities members. Hondagneu-Sotelo relates the story of a housekeeper called Maribel who eventually quit not because of the polishing and scrubbing, but because being ignored devastated her socially (Hondagneu-Sotelo 117). Basically, HondagneuSotelo is saying that discrimination has a high impact on members of non-dominant cultures. Furthermore, there are cases of live-in nannies who are so disrespected by their American bosses that even food is denied. Pitti states that [o]ne Latina live-in nanny/housekeeper told me that in her employers substantial pantry, little DO NOT TOUCH signs signaled which food items were not available to her (Hondagneu-Sotelo 120). Hondagneu-Sotelo insists that although many of

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these families are financially able, they deny basic and cheap things like food. As Jewelle Taylor Gibbs and Teiasha Bankhead state in their article Coming to California: Chasing the Dream, Skin color superseded all other salient characteristics as a ticket to claim a share of the California pot of Gold (Gibbs and Bankhead). Conflicting with multicultural theory, the racial barriers existent in California are still to be overcome. Chicanos are one example of the melting pot theory. Rejected by new immigrants, Chicano culture represents a middle-of-the-road culture, one that incorporates elements of both Latino and American culture. According to Pitti, ethnic Mexicans and others retained political visions that looked well beyond the geographical boundaries of the county and transcended the rhetoric of the Chicano Power (Pitti 192). In making this statement, Pitti argues that therere differences between Chicanos and Latino immigrants. Moreover, while Chicanos are concerned with local problems, the recent immigrants are more concerned about the problems in their patria than in their new country. Pitti states: [i]mmigrants lambasted Mexicos Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the singularly powerful political party in that country, for monopolizing control of the federal government and for officials supposed involvement in drug trafficking. Local residents also condemned Adolfo G. Domingues, the consul general of Mexico, who told a San Jose audience in 1964 that California could expect a larger number of undocumented wetbacks after the Bracero Program ended later that year, an unfortunate development because while Japanese and other farmworkers in California had the mental resources and education to take care of himself the Mexican bracero is helpless without supervision.Shocked at the affront to Mexican citizens, San Joses El Paladin asked readers how it seems to you, what a representative we have (Pitti 192).

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In other words, differing from Chicanos, immigrants still attached to their home country and culture. Thus, the Chicano group is a proof that with time, cultures melt into the dominant Californian white culture, a fact that conflicts with Jays definition of multiculturalism. Another fact that conflicts with Jay definition of multiculturalism is that the educational system in California is racist. Mine and my brothers personal experiences as students of the California public system have shown us that many school employees have racial preconceptions. It seems that invisible to me, but visible to others, there is a stamp in my face implying that Im dumb. Once, I dropped by the counseling department at Foothill to talk about my plans of transferring and discuss what should I do to prepare a stronger application. As soon as I told the counselor that I wished to transfer to Stanford, he, without looking at my record or asking any question, said that I had almost no chances. He promptly suggested that I should not even apply to Stanford and that I should consider just getting an associate degree. Considering that the only thing this guy knew about me was that my name was Pedro, a typical Latin name, I now realize that his assumptions about my potential are evidence of the discrimination described by Pitti. Furthermore, I also experienced teachers that have unusual tough corrections on my tests. I remember the day that I received a mathematics test on which the teacher took off twice as many points as he had taken from a Caucasian colleague of mine who made the same mistakes. Moreover, my brother, a high school student, has been discouraged to pursue as big objectives as his Caucasian friends. For instance, he tells me its common for the high school counselors to recommend to Latino students to take less challenging courses. Such attitudes of officials that were supposedly hired to help students are shameful. Does being a Latin make you inherently less capable than a white? My experience shows that California educational system is far from being free of prejudice or multicultural.

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In 1994, Californians voted in favor of a ballot measure, Prop. 187, designed to prohibit illegal immigrants from using health care, social services, and public education. In the shadows of the October 2003 gubernatorial recall election, California voters deliberated against a controversial ballot measure, Prop. 54, that would have banned state and local governments from collecting certain race and ethnicity data about its residents. Both propositions are proof that Californians dont want to take the first step in achieving a true multicultural society. If Jay correctly defined multiculturalism, the Golden State cannot currently be considered multicultural due to these clear acts that privilege the mainstream society. Jay states, [i]t is these [, bigotry in the operation of the economy and the social institutions,] that divide people by race ethnicity, sexual preference, etc., privileging the dominant group and subordinating the rest (Jay 58-9). In making this comment, Jay points out that having different ethnic groups doesnt mean that you have multiculturalism. Hence, Californians position on both prop 187 and prop 54 shows that even though the state has many different ethnic groups, it isnt truly multicultural. California may be partially multicultural. On the one hand, the state has mixed cultures embraced by US born descendents of Mexicans citizens like the Brown Power. On the other hand, the state has immigrants that have kept their native cultures. Others are members of the dominant group. As a result of this diverse combination, we have something that is in between the melting pot and multicultural theories. Analogously, my educational experience in America has been diverse. I have had extremely good teachers that make no racial distinctions; these are true teachers. Yet, I also have had teachers and had to deal with school officials who were maybe not racist but, at least, disrespectful of my right to be treated the in the same manner they would treat a Caucasian. Thereupon, I can say with confidence that California is partially multicultural.

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Works cited Gibbs, Jewelle T. and Bankhead, Teiahsha. Preserving Privilege. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2001.

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Jay, Gregory. What is Multiculturalism? Pierette Hondagneu-Sotelo. Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence.The Regents of the University of California, 2001. Pitti Stephen J. The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican American. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003. Chapter 8: Silicon Valley. Pp. 173-197. Rawls, James J., and Walton Bean. California an interpretative History. 8th edition. McGraw-Hill, 2003. Staff. Obama said America was always a land of immigrants Online posting. 8 July 2008. 19 March 2009. <http://talkradionews.com/2008/07/obama-said-america-was-always-aland-of-immigrants/>.