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Exclusion, deprivation and affirmative action Exclusion, deprivation and affirmative action
by Joseph Gatt
2007-11-01 10:21:11
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With increasing immigration inflows, several countries have ended up with “ethnic minorities”. While some voluntarily decide to exclude themselves from society, some try to integrate, yet fail.

What “ethnic minorities”? Is there an “ethnic majority”? “Ethnic minorities” sometimes decide to label themselves as such. They sometimes refuse that label, but do use it when circumstances make them feel like they should. And some hate that label, and would like to be considered as regular citizens.

Yet, to the eyes of other people, they will be labeled. They are often betrayed by their ethnic names, physical appearance or accent. Either way, they really would like to participate in the country’s mainstream activities: culture, politics and society. Yet often they are excluded. Indeed, it is claimed that the general public would not accept a statesman that comes from an “ethnic minority” background, a reporter that speaks the native language with an accent, or a CEO with a name that would sound to many as eccentric.

“Ethnic minorities” arrived in their “adopted homeland” to help the “native population”. And they were often exploited, underpaid for doing jobs that no one would like to do. Yet, after several generations, they became partly or fully assimilated to their homeland. They have nothing to do with their original country. Some wouldn’t even be able to place their ancestor’s country on a map. Yet, the label that they are people who should do jobs other people are unwilling to do for as little pay as possible remains.

“Ethnic minorities” helped their countries enrich cultural, brought new ideas, and played a decisive role in their “adoptive homeland’s” modernization, economic growth and prosperity. Yet, a “glass barrier” often denies them access to the country’s top positions, and they are not treated equally by mainstream society.

That’s when the US came with the idea of “affirmative action”. Affirmative action is the idea of helping ethnic minorities that have difficulties rising in the country’s social ladder reach important positions and attend the country’s most renowned colleges. India and a dozen other countries have a similar program.

France has been working on a similar project. However, the media and society refuses to integrate societies whose ancestors immigrated to their countries. They are sometimes blamed for their countries economic stagnation, but seldom thanked for their contributions in the country’s economic growth.

What should be corrected is what Kipling calls the “white man’s burden”. Difference can only help bring new ideas, and minorities should be allowed to participate in activities without having to justify the fact that despite the fact that they come from a minority, they have made it through. Minorities should have nothing to prove, as much as other populations have nothing to prove.

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