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This Reader’s Comment, by Ismail Muhammad from Los Angeles, to a particularly narrow-minded editorial in the NY Times by Ross Douthat (in which Mr. Douthat, in short, portrayed historical

Next stop: Japanese internment camp, California, USA 1941-46

intolerance and the threat of discrimination in the US as “wisdom”), can be applied to many multicultural environments, including here in the Netherlands:

“I take issue with the idea that discrimination produces assimilation, and is excusable because it leads to unity. I’m curious to know your historical analysis of anti-black discrimination [in the US]. Discrimination does not result in assimilation. Assimilation is the result of being fully integrated into the native culture through the work place, social and government institutions, media, and popular culture. The more people are forced to recognize that they are different, the more likely they are to wield those differences as cultural weapons. In short, discrimination results in narrow-minded thinking on the part of the victim, who comes to see himself as irrevocably different and only finds acceptance in his own culture. This may even lead to dangerous interpretations of that culture, i.e. militant black nationalism, Islamic extremism, etc.”

It was a relief to read such a reasoned and rational view after suffering Mr. Douthat’s surprisingly provincial and black/white view of the world. There were many worthy comments, but the one by Mr. Muhammad I found particularly cogent.

This is, in my view, what is largely missing in the Dutch and broader European landscape: an accurate representation of  modern societies in “work place, social and government institutions, media, and popular culture.” Until this truly begins to happen, those who are new to the culture will continue to feel themselves underrepresented, ostracized, disenfranchised and “different.” It is not only up to them to make the changes: it is up to both the host society as well as the newcomers to reach out to each other.

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Leo Salazar

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