I have always thought of multiculturalism as a positive word, but Spain is challenging my notion of how to address inequality. University of Malaga lecturer, Rafael Durán Munoz, explained the nuances of a multiculturalist, assimilationist and inter-culturalist approach. Though both France and Spain strive to address inequality amongst their diverse populations, their approaches vary greatly across these three.
In France, for instance, we observed an assimilationist approach. Munoz explained that though Sarcozy claimed multiculturalism failed in France, it actually never existed. According to Munoz, before you are a Muslim, you are French. This explains why in public spaces like a school, people cannot wear religious symbols like a headscarf. Schools are considered secular places that should be free from religion.
Spain takes a more intercultural approach. According to an interculturalist, you are free to express things like your religion or culture as long as you do not violate any human rights. This means that unlike in France, a Muslim girl would be allowed to wear a veil to school. Munoz explains that ‘people are not part of us because they act like us. They are part of us because we respect them’. People should not simply co-exist, separated by ethnic ghettos, but should instead live together.
Like Munoz, lecturer Victor Manuel Martin Solbes, condoned an inter-culturalist approach to diversity and specifically focused on inter-culturalism within the classroom. This approach must be part of education as a whole, and not just included in one activity or one heritage day. Within the classroom, he believes diversity should be visible and celebrated.
I have also always appreciated how in the US, we have free expressions of religion and culture. That being said, I never considered what would be the French criticism. Our so called “melting pot” is actually marked by ethnic ghettos and inequality. Do we co-exist in relatively segregated communities and schools, or are all people truly integrated into one society?