Thomas Sowell
Recommend this article
Editors' note: this is part two of a two part column. Click here for part one.

There was a reason why employers in the middle of the 19th century had signs that said, "No Irish need apply" -- and why employers in the middle of the 20th century no longer had such signs. It was not that employers had changed. The Irish had changed.

The Catholic Church for years worked to bring about such changes among the Irish immigrants and their offspring, just as various religious and secular organizations among the Jews, among blacks and among other groups worked to bring about changes within their respective groups. By and large these efforts paid off. All these groups were advancing, long before there were civil rights laws.

Yet today, attempts to get black or Hispanic youngsters to speak the language of the society around them are decried by multiculturalists. And any attempt to get them to behave according to the cultural norms of the larger society is denounced as "cultural imperialism," if not racism.

The multicultural dogma is that we are to "celebrate" all cultures, not change them. In other words, people who lag educationally or economically are to keep on doing what they have been doing -- but somehow have better results in the future than in the past. And, if they don't have better results in the future, it is society's fault.

Such notions have been tried, and failed, in other countries and times, long before they became a fashionable dogma called multiculturalism.

In 19th century Latvia and Bohemia, among other places in Eastern Europe, the great majority of Germans were literate, while most of the indigenous peoples around them were not. Not surprisingly, Germans had more education and skills, and enjoyed a higher standard of living.

In both Latvia and Bohemia, the German minority held most of the jobs requiring education and skills. But, in both places, the indigenous people -- Latvians and Czechs -- could rise by acquiring the German language and culture, and many did.

But, for the newly rising Latvian and Czech intelligentsia, that was not enough. They wanted to be able to rise without having to learn a different language and culture.

Nor were Latvians and Czechs unique. Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, Malays in Malaysia and Maoris in New Zealand are just some of the others who have wanted the same thing -- namely, to cling to their own culture and yet achieve the same success as people with a different culture.

Recommend this article

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate