Assignment: Exclusionary Practices
The recognition also gained dominance that past discriminations on the basis of categories like race, gender, and religion needed not just corrections on the individual level but “affirmative action” toward groups that had been discriminated against as groups. This recognition required strenuous attacks on exclu- sionary practices of the past and generated a new hopefulness that stressing what had divided Americans in the past could become the connecting link of the present. This emphasis on group rights is what became known in the
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Introduction • 13
1980s as multiculturalism to its advocates and, a decade later, as identity politics to its critics.
The transformation of an Anglo-American settler country into a poly- ethnic and self-consciously multicultural nation may thus appear as a story of great progress toward the fulfillment of egalitarian ideals in a more and more inclusive society. When seen through the lens of mul- ticulturalism, one could imagine a success story: that a slow equaliza- tion process among different status groups had affirmed the “American Dream” of high social and economic mobility. There are more women in leadership positions than before the 1960s, and African Americans and Latinos have a far stronger representation in governmental bodies and educational structures, in business, health care, law, and the military. Dis- crimination on the grounds of race, sex, national origin, or sexual orien- tation is being monitored, and nasty jokes or spiteful comments about minorities are no longer common currency or politely tolerated in many areas of American life.25
Yet it is also the case that classes have been drifting apart in America. The status and share in income of poor people has been declining, while that of the highest-earning strata has increased dramatically.
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