Is it possible to create a post colonial cultural identity?

Although I agree with the common phrase “knowledge is power”, it does not account for those whose only source of knowledge came from people who have power over them. Daniel Goh and Philip Holden’s introductory chapter “Postcoloniality, race and multiculturalism” in the 2009 Routledge publication, Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore which address the issues, often racial, that arise when a entire society is based on a colonized foundation. Throughout the chapter Goh and Holden break down Malaysian and Singaporean history which has lead being viewed as one of “the most successful of postcolonial states in managing ethnic differences and conflicts”(Goh and Holden 1). This belief of a successful postcolonial state covers up what Goh and Holden see as a central issue in Malaysia and Singapore, defining their identity because it is complicated by the “instatutionalized colonial racial identities”(Goh and Holden 3).

This ideal of a successful post colonial nation is also challenged by the “tendency to read

multiculturalism [is a] purely Western phenomenon”(Goh and Holden 2). The western lens challenges the value of success in a non-Western society and parallels the corruption in colonization. British colonization placed Chinese as “commercial middleman aliens, Malays and Indonesian migrants confirmed to the fields as indigenous peasant smallholders and the Indians imported as municipal and plantation labourers” (Goh and Holden 3). These placements and divisions of peoples based on race and appearace have lead to the bigger issues in Malaysia, that “the values [of Malays] is already made”(Goh and Holden 3). There is a lacking of a sense of a national collective culture in Malaysia makes it impossible for Malaysia to be a thriving multicultural society as many claim it to be. If it is difficult to perceive or have a cultural identity, like it is difficult in Malaysia, then it is impossible to claim to be a multicultural society.

Goh and Holden’s attention to the lack of cultural identity in Malaysia work in conjunction with Tatum’s statement that “the dominant group has the greatest influence in determining the structure of the society”(Tatum 3). Where Goh and Holden’s beliefs diverge from Tatum is when Tatum states that “when a subordinate demonstrates positive qualities believed to be more characteristic of dominants, the individual is defined by dominants as an anomaly”(Tatum 3). According to Goh and Holden, those who have qualities of the dominant are everywhere, they are everyone in Malaysian postcolonial society. Unlike Tatum’s beliefs, sharing beliefs with the dominent or once dominating power is common and in fact embedded in Malay contemporary life.

It is interesting to question the identity of a postcolonial country. Is it ever possible for these countries to have their own identity, can they rebuild their cultural identity from before colonization? In a place like America there is a completely different set of challenges to a multicultural society that people in Malaysia will never face and visa versa.

Works Cited

Goh, Daniel and Philip Holden. “Postcoloniality, race and multiculturalism.” Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore, Routledge, 2009, pp. 1-9.

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”. April 1980

An Island of Stability

We have a joke in the U.S. of seeing Canadians as exceedingly polite and inherently good. In reading Erna Paris’s “Canadians Must Never Take Multiculturalism for Granted,” I found out that Americans aren’t the only one’s who see our neighbors to the north that way.

Paris’s OpEd outlines the importance of multiculturalism to the Canadian identity, especially in relation to rise of nationalism and xenophobia across the Western World. She, in Canadian politeness, quietly boasts that the country is “the world’s most successful multicultural society” as she describes the history of Trudeau’s multiculturalism initiative in the 70s and Canada’s taking in of Vietnamese refugees (Paris 1). She points out that Canadian individuals learned from the horrors of the Holocaust that they (and the U.S.) sent Jewish escapees back to in 1939. In her second to last paragraph, Paris mentions that not all has always been well, blaming the “opportunistic unleash[ing] … bigotry” by those at the top (Paris 2).

I can’t help but read this as an attempt to hide problems.

PM Pierre Trudeau in the House of Commons, Ottowa

PM Pierre Trudeau in the House of Commons, Ottawa

Actually, not even an attempt, because I do believe that Paris believes what she is writing, but I see and my brain refuses to believe it. It’s easy for me to believe that Canadians are better people than Americans because that’s our American mindset. That doesn’t mean I believe that Canada is the multicultural utopia of the West. Reading Paris’s OpEd makes me wonder what the response of Canadian minority groups was to it. I have a friend who lives in Quebec and she’s told me of the xenophobia Canada has struggled with and the disrespect and mistreatment their Native people have had to deal with. When she was in school, she was told to pick a piece written by a Quebec poet and present on it. She chose a Native poet’s piece and was told by her teacher that it wasn’t “really Quebec”.

While I don’t find it hard to believe that Canada is doing better many Western countries in this nationalistic time, I don’t believe that “doing better” means presenting a Canada that is and has been accepting and progressively multicultural for decades now. We all have our problems and we should all strive to acknowledge and remedy them.

 

Works Cited

Paris, Erna. “Canadians Must Never Take Multiculturalism for Granted”.” The Globe & Mail, 1 March 2018. PDF.

Ms. Liberties Mixed Messages

One of the earliest memories I have is of box from when my family moved in first grade. This was a tiny move, I stayed in the same neighborhood, saw the same stores change into new ones and was honestly too young to even remember my old apartment. Moving is always challenging no matter how far the distance.  I cannot begin to relate or even imagine the hardships, pain or excitement that an immigrant must feel moving across oceans, often to America. Emma Lazarus’ 19th century poem “The New Colossus” portrays the timely message of the American Dream fostered by acceptance. In the mid 1800’s America was able to provide a home for those who were escaping disastrous or bad living conditions, but sadly the feeling of homesickness, longing for a home or a culture is simply not left behind.

Lazarus’ use of a metaphor emphasizes the savior that America provides for those who must leave their home. In the last two lines of her poem she writes, “Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door” (13-14) she compares immigrants to those who have experienced a tempest. This shines a positive light on America and what it as a country can provide for people. The acceptance and wiliness to take anyone in no matter the experiences, or storm like a tempest they have previously gone through. By comparing immigrants experience to a type of storm Lazarus provides a type of relatability for Americans andAmerican immigrants, as no matter where you are in the world there are always storms.

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The relatability of a storm creates a bride between immigrants and nonimmigrants, because they cannot relate on many levels. American Immigrants and Americans are inherently different. There is an overall sense of welcoming, relatability and acceptance for immigrants thought out “The New Colossus” and in American morals but this isn’t always the case. By assuming that immigrants have gone through a storm American are almost assuming that America is just better. This sets a foundation of pride in America has that tends to subdue or disrespect other cultures. Immigrants of the late 1800’s may have not wanted to come to America or may have been facing other personal hardships that America as a whole failed to recognize.

Now, prepositioned at the base of the Statue of Liberty this poem still rings true today. The message of acceptance and the American dream remains hopeful and uplifting, but there are certain changes the need to be put in place to make sure that as an American society we are living up to all the poems aspirations.

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Lazarus. Emma. “The New Colossus,” 1883.

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