In different societies today, being a part of the minority is not relatively as bad as it was half a century ago. Institutions have made an effort to ensure that their workforce is made up of a significant percentage of minority groups in the country. In his essay Models of American Ethnic Relations: A Historical Perspective, Frederickson outlines three models applied in different communities and how different groups perceive each other and how these groups should interact. These models include assimilation, separatism, hierarchy and cultural pluralism. The application of these models can be seen in the works of Thomas Jefferson, Richard Rodriguez and Malcolm X. The three authors had different perspectives in relation to the perception of cultural differences in the society. Of all the models outlined, cultural pluralism is the most appropriate and practical model as it sees to the embracement of all cultures and the acceptance of individuals as they are, rather than separation of groups based on their differences. In the three articles, we discover how the models influenced the lives of the societies which the authors lived in, and how cultural pluralism proves to be the most practical model to implement.
In his article Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson highlights the model of separatism and to some extent, the model of hierarchy, as described by Frederickson in his article. According to the model of separatism, minority groups seek to separate themselves from the dominant group while maintaining their culture and heritage. In relation to the hierarchy model, the majority group attempts to maintain its dominance over the minority groups by any means necessary. This was evidenced through the enslavement of African Americans and the conquest of the Indians. Similarly, Jefferson emphasizes on the fact that the African Americans did not have a comfortable in America due to slavery and that there would be a better way for them to live better lives. He points out that “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other…”. However, he proposed that they be returned back to Africa in order for them to undergo colonization, similar to other Africans in their continent. Despite the fact that he does not condone slavery, he clearly highlights the supremacy of white people over Africans in their own continent. “Slaves guilty of offences punishable in others by labour, to be transported to Africa, or elsewhere, as the circumstances of the time admit, there to be continued in slavery…”.
On the other hand, Malcolm X, in Learning to Read highlights the model of separatism as a way for African Americans to develop in the country. Separatism is a model that involves the separation of the minority group from the majority. This separation encourages the minority groups to practice their culture and embrace it while ignoring the culture and traditions of the dominant group. Malcolm X explains that black people would have it better if they taught themselves how to read and write, without depending on the white people. He points out that he was in prison for a significant period of time where he was appalled by the crimes of the white man against humanity “The world’s most monstrous crime, the sin and the blood on the white man’s hands, are almost impossible to believe”. He concludes his essay by pointing out that “If I weren’t out here every day battling the white man, I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity…”. He also narrates how reading more books opened his eyes to the ignorance in the black community and how this was the hindrance to their success.
In Chyna and Me, JoYin Shih highlights the model of cultural pluralism and how it affected the classroom in general. Cultural pluralism encourages the embracement of cultural differences in the society and learning how to interact with different individuals based on their cultural heritage. Shih was a Chinese student in a school where there was diversity in culture. In many occasions, the teacher attempted to involve the students by asking them about their culture in the classroom. Despite the fact that the teacher attempted to involve the students, Shih ended up being in confusion in relation to her identity as she found that she was different from other classmates based on their cultural heritage.
In summary, the three models have been clearly explored in these three articles. Jefferson clearly highlights the model of hierarchy in his article by pointing out how dominance over black people in Africa would be beneficial to their survival and their comfort. However, he fails to explore how colonization, as a solution to slavery, would affect the African Americans, particularly considering the hurdles they went through to get to America. Malcolm tries to point out why separatism would improve the lives of black people in the country as they would learn to be independent from the white man. He encourages them to read books and articles written to encourage black people to take control of their lives and to teach them about their cultural heritage. Shih, however, explores the concept of cultural pluralism as she experienced it in her school. Among the three models, cultural pluralism proves to be the most practical and effective model to be implemented. It encourages individuals to relate to each other appropriately, regardless of their cultural background. It also encourages peace among members of a community as they learn to live with each other’s differences.