The 80's were all about assimilation. The dominant racial metaphor asked us to consider our country a giant stew, and to consider ourselves little morsels of ethnic singularity within that stew. That is, we could be potatoes if we wanted, but the carrots and the celery had just as many rights to be in the stew as well. In addition, if we were all alike and were going to be melted down and agglutinated into a giant stew, then what difference do ethnic features matter?
If we are all going to be stew, why should you worry about what ingredient you are or once were? The problem with this analogy is that to make stew you need stock, and the stock is all about hegemony; the stock represents the sameness in our stew. It's kind of like the reason a hamburger from McDonald's tastes the same in Buenos Aires than it does in Bangalore; McDonald's stock overrides the minute differences that the regional restaurants can muster.
In this same way, the stock of America comes from the Western, Anglo world and despite the variety of ingredients that comprise the stew: you will always be able to taste the stock. So, maybe assimilation means always having to subjugate the stew taste in lieu of the stock taste because the stock taste is what has always held stews together. Or maybe it means always having to taste the stock.
Parish and Katz (1991) operate their book, Multicultural Acquisitions, under the assumption that, "There is a growing demand for libraries to provide multicultural materials and services" (pg. 4); but, they also remind librarians whom use this resource to be wary, "the assumed benefits of certain targeted efforts should be examined closely" (pg. 4). More importantly, the position presented in the book is that, "public libraries have a responsibility to maintain a neutral position in response to social issues while at the same time providing services and materials appropriate to the community they serve" (pg. 4) In other words, Parish and Katz want the user of their book to understand that libraries should stay away from taking a position on a social issue, but that they have a professional obligation to provide services and materials in an appropriate way to the users of the library, and the communities they represent.
Parish and Katz explain the history of community outreach to get a better understanding of why multicultural acquisitions is so fraught with pitfalls, "It is commonly felt that early immigration from Europe assimilated into this country with relative ease while blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians have been to varying degree less successful" (pg. 5) Could minority non-whites have been less successful in assimilating Americanness because they have been intentionally left out of library programming and needs assessments? Edwin S. Clay in the October-December 2006 issue of Virginia Libraries writes, "Libraries in the 1920s contributed pamphlets written by library personnel in native languages describing community rules and laws, prevailing wages, cost of living, health codes, and other information" (page 11).
Obviously there is a tradition in libraries for outreach, particularly towards non-Americans and newly arrived immigrants. So, why all the commotion now? What is so different about the new crop of immigrants that makes servicing multicultural populations so controversial? Parish and Katz explain, "During the 1930s and 1940s libraries began to place less emphasis upon programs for immigrants. McMullen suggest three possible reasons for this...First, immigrants who arrived in American just before or after WWII were able to take advantage of programs already in place and as a result assimilated without any great difficulty. Second, the number of immigrants had already reached its peak. Finally, "Americanization" was no longer regarded as primary to the successful absorption of people from other countries. At the same time, the black civil rights movement began to take hold" (1991, 6).
A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.