Yesterday, I wrote about the pro's and con's of the gig economy, in comparison to conventional employment. There is a related issue to that, and before I start, I want to say to read all the way to the end, because I might not be saying what you might think I am saying. I am going to bring up something that usually only jerks bring up.
See, usually when someone starts complaining about that, they are a clueless Republican Uncle on Facebook or an edgelord that wants to be a jerk with plausible deniability. And I promise I am not one of those people.
I work in higher education. As mentioned previously, in an informal sector of that. When I look for jobs in the United States university (and community college) sector, multicultural is a word that comes up a lot. Many universities have heavy populations of international students, and even if they don't, the young population in the United States is very diverse. So having people that can relate to them is an often-cited goal. Sometimes job applications even ask for a little mini-essay about my commitment to multiculturalism. And I don't know what to say. Because what they are asking might be several different things.
Businesses don't want to hire people who don't play well with others. And they want to avoid what is generally called "cringe" these days, which is a reasonable thing to want. Nobody wants to be facepalming after some would-be-wit asks if an Arab participant is late for a Zoom meeting because his camel broke. So at some point, the question is just about keeping a certain level of professionalism in organizational life. I can't really complain about that, if the question is to root out the worst of middle school bullies.
But here we get to another point: multiculturalism is expensive. And I believe, in part, that questions about multiculturalism are questions about a person's resources. Going to Thailand, Costa Rica, Iceland, Sri Lanka, or another glamorous, essay worthy country, where you can learn shareable anecdotes about the richness of the world's cultural diversity...well, that is usually the provence of people who had a head start in life, travelling young, and having access to language clases. My own main source of multicultural experience was spending three years teaching English in Chile, and I have lots of stories about subways and snack foods, but I get the feeling that universities are looking for different experiences to stock their Interdepartmental Group on Knowledge Leadership. The most succinct way I can describe it is that Multiculturalism is the new Grand Tour. In centuries past, young people went to Paris and Rome to learn about the grandeur of Western Culture, before starting their careers. In the current day, young people go to Madagascar and Peru to learn about why Western Culture is evil, before starting their careers. Is this paranoia and bitterness on my part? Am I overstating the case? Maybe. This is a daylog, not a thesis.
Okay, and then the third way we could look at this: multiculturalism in a liberational sense. Lets really get into the nitty-gritty of how structural racism and xenophobia makes life difficult for people domestically and around the globe. Lets talk about how for many people, every day tasks are fraught with fears that others are oblivious too. Lets talk about how large parts of our culture need to be retooled if we are going to survive. And lets do that all in a 300 word essay for a position as assistant to the leader of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Knowledge Leadership.
So, to sum up: when organizations ask about "multiculturalism", which are they asking for? Someone who is urbane and sophisticated, and has the resources to have international experience? Someone who won't cause the organization lawsuits and bad press? Or a revolutionary who is really willing to change things? I don't know what answer they are looking for, and in many cases, I don't believe I am the right fit.