COAT OF MANY COLORS by Eugene Eoyang


Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One
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 A collection of essays and speeches offering some much-needed moderation on the theme of multiculturalism and diversity. Eoyang (Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures/Indiana Univ.) maintains that the nation's current debate on multiculturalism is needlessly polarizing. Those who oppose it have often taken extreme positions on a variety of educational and social issues. The US English Movement adherents believe that English must be made the official language of the US (which would entail, for example, refusing to print election materials in Spanish or Korean). According to Eoyang, such false nativism disregards the richly diverse linguistic heritage of the US and perpetuates the false myth that this country is historically monolingual and that to be truly American one should speak English without an accent. Rather, the author argues, the US should be the most multilingual country in the world. ``We have forgotten,'' insists Eoyang, ``that this country was a rainbow coalition that had already developed long before Jesse Jackson exploited it.'' Eoyang also takes on those proponents of multiculturalism who are more concerned with ``political correctness'' than with recognizing each person's worth, insisting that all the talk these days of ``people of color'' exaggerates and confuses the issue of race. When we define people according to their color--which can never be accurate anyway--the individual ``gets lost in the kaleidoscope.'' The proponents of political correctness have fallen into the trap of seeing the world in black and white, with the white man as the devil incarnate. The pressures against the white majority in the US ``have escalated to such an extent that even moderate white Americans are feeling threatened by an onslaught of ethnic and racial rhetoric.'' Eoyang offers a reasoned and balanced voice on an otherwise overheated topic, but most of the essays are repetitive variations on the same theme.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-8070-0420-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994