Guns, Politics, and Freedom
February 4, 1997

Multicultural Guy

By F. Paul Valone


Published by The Charlotte Observer on February 4, 1997 under the (ugh) title “To get ahead, join the common culture,” this piece was a response to a shooting of a black motorist by Charlotte police and elements pushing to have “Ebonics” recognized as a language.


At the risk of damaging my gun-toting, mean-spirited, food-from-the-mouths-of-babes conservative credentials, I'll admit it: I'm a multicultural kind of guy.


Any trip to my grandparents' house was a barrage of calamari, cucidates, and force-fed pasta.  During visits from Buffalo, great aunt Madeline Loiacano really did pinch my cheeks.  (I never, I confess, found the nerve to flee).  Once, poor Uncle Guido let me solo his Alfa Romeo, never knowing what he'd unleashed.


But few cultural experiences could rival lunch at The Savoy.  Unlike the famous restaurant, it was a worn little place with genuine checkered tablecloths, waitresses who'd worked there since the earth cooled, and walls cluttered with eight decades of dust-covered memorabilia.  On Saturday afternoons I joined a lawyer (my father), a baker, a bookie (he passed as a car dealer) and the Chief of Police for a leisurely afternoon of argument. 


Italians, you see, live for argument.  They'd argue about food or politics or who owed what for lunch (the razor-fine difference being whether you issued an invitation or an "announcement").  Once, they argued about who owned leftover gasoline in the hose and whether you could be prosecuted for pumping it into your tank.  The Chief favored prosecution. 


If, over lunch, I'd maintained that decades hence an Italian-American could show up for a job interview dripping gold chains, shirt unbuttoned to the navel, speaking like a character from a Godfather movie and not only be hired, but treasured for "diversity," they'd still be laughing. 


Unfortunately, however, the joke is on us because that is the premise of multiculturalism.


Great grandfather Francisco emigrated from Sicily to become a farmer near Buffalo.  Knowing Italian immigrants were targets for discrimination, he adopted American customs and began blending in.  On the downside, Italian language was mostly lost to us within a couple of generations (except during arguments, when Italian would truly flow).  But the seeds he planted bore fruit when his son went to medical school and, within a single generation, led his family into the ranks of American professionals.  (Yes, I am the black sheep).


Multiculturalists, however, perpetuate the myth that ethnic groups can dress, speak and behave differently than other American subgroups, can scream for separate needs, can in fact refuse to join the American culture, yet still be treated as Americans.


They fail to mention that people of similar viewpoints prefer each other's company (why else would liberal Democrats swarm to editorial departments?), or that discrimination often has less to do with race or religion than with a natural tendency of common interests to bond.  By denying a common American perspective, multiculturalism produces cultural segregation.


Shelton Steele, a black research fellow at the Hoover Institution, explains: "If my benefits come to me primarily as a black and not as an American, then the effect over time is to undermine...the common culture and democracy of America.  This kind of thinking causes me not to move into the American mainstream.  Which correspondingly causes me to fall farther and farther behind."


Florida's Cuban leadership understands  adaptation.  As refugees, they don't languish in victimhood, but set about building the structures of success by opening shops and restaurants and becoming a formidable political force.


Another myth maintains that we can't judge attributes of one culture superior to those of another.  Instead of adopting the strengths and discarding the weaknesses of each, we're supposed to "celebrate diversity." 


Yet liberals backpedal when they encounter a truly diverse (if barbaric) custom like, say, female genital mutilation.  Do you suppose they would consider me sufficiently "diverse" if I adopted the Sicilian tradition of vendetta, where disputes are settled with a short-barreled shotgun?


"Multiculturalism" should mean success through adaptation.  While my critics will claim otherwise, I don't imply we should abandon our heritage to become carbon copy Americans.  But varying standards for ethnic groups and encouraging, rather than minimizing their differences not only raises barriers, but crushes our society, our legal system, and, our very rationality beneath conflicting demands.


Until we get the message, idiots will continue to claim ethnic dialect as foreign language and black motorists will continue to be tragically shot by well-intentioned police who share no medium of understanding.


Conservative scholar Thomas Sowell said, "When Europeans first discovered paper and printing from China, they did not 'celebrate diversity,' they stopped giving themselves writer's cramp from copying scrolls and started letting printing presses do the work."  Now that's multiculturalism.