Multiculturalism doesnât make vibrant communities but defensive ones.
by Steve Sailer
In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And itâs not just that we donât trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we donât trust people who do look like us.
âHarvard professor Robert D. Putnam
It was one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists. While in Sweden to receive a $50,000 academic prize as political science professor of the year, Harvardâs Robert D. Putnam, a former Carter administration official who made his reputation writing about the decline of social trust in America in his bestseller Bowling Alone, confessed to Financial Times columnist John Lloyd that his latest research discoveryâthat ethnic diversity decreases trust and co-operation in communitiesâwas so explosive that for the last half decade he hadnât dared announce it âuntil he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it âwould have been irresponsible to publish without that.ââ
In a column headlined âHarvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity,â Lloyd summarized the results of the largest study ever of âcivic engagement,â a survey of 26,200 people in 40 American communities:
When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. âThey donât trust the local mayor, they donât trust the local paper, they donât trust other people and they donât trust institutions,â said Prof Putnam. âThe only thing thereâs more of is protest marches and TV watching.â
Lloyd noted, âProf Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, âthe most diverse human habitation in human history.ââ
As if to prove his own point that diversity creates minefields of mistrust, Putnam later protested to the Harvard Crimson that the Financial Times essay left him feeling betrayed, calling it âby two degrees of magnitude, the worst experience I have ever had with the media.â To Putnamâs horror, hundreds of âracists and anti-immigrant activistsâ sent him e-mails congratulating him for finally coming clean about his findings.
Lloyd stoutly stood by his reporting, and Putnam couldnât cite any mistakes of fact, just a failure to accentuate the positive. It was âalmost criminal,â Putnam grumbled, that Lloyd had not sufficiently emphasized the spin that he had spent five years concocting. Yet considering the quality of Putnamâs talking points that Lloyd did pass on, perhaps the journalist was being merciful in not giving the professor more rope with which to hang himself. For example, Putnamâs lineââWhat we shouldnât do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new usââsounds like a weak parody of Bertolt Brechtâs parody of Communist propaganda after the failed 1953 uprising against the East German puppet regime: âWould it not be easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?â
Before Putnam hid his study away, his research had appeared on March 1, 2001 in a Los Angeles Times article entitled âLove Thy Neighbor? Not in L.A.â Reporter Peter Y. Hong recounted, âThose who live in more homogeneous places, such as New Hampshire, Montana or Lewiston, Maine, do more with friends and are more involved in community affairs or politics than residents of more cosmopolitan areas, the study said.â
Putnamâs discovery is hardly shocking to anyone who has tried to organize a civic betterment project in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. My wife and I lived for 12 years in Chicagoâs Uptown district, which claims to be the most diverse two square miles in America, with about 100 different languages being spoken. She helped launch a neighborhood drive to repair the dilapidated playlot across the street. To get Mayor Daleyâs administration to chip in, we needed to raise matching funds and sign up volunteer laborers.
This kind of Robert D. Putnam-endorsed good citizenship proved difficult in Uptown, however, precisely because of its remarkable diversity. The most obvious stumbling block was that itâs hard to talk neighbors into donating money or time if they donât speak the same language as you. Then thereâs the fundamental difficulty of making multiculturalism workânamely, multiple cultures. Getting Koreans, Russians, Mexicans, Nigerians, and Assyrians (Christian Iraqis) to agree on how to landscape a park is harder than fostering consensus among people who all grew up with the same mental picture of what a park should look like. For example, Russian women like to sunbathe. But most of the immigrant ladies from more southerly countries stick to the shade, since their cultures discriminate in favor of fairer-skinned women. So do you plant a lot of shade trees or not?
The high crime rate didnât help either. The affluent South Vietnamese merchants from the nearby Little Saigon district showed scant enthusiasm for sending their small children to play in a park that would also be used by large black kids from the local public-housing project.
More at: http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_01_15/cover.html