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Liberal Multiculturalism

Liberal multiculturalism, in McLaren’s (1995, p. 124) words, is based on the premise of ‘intellectual “sameness” among the races, on their cognitive equivalence or the rationality imminent in all races that permits them to compete equally in a capitalist society’. In other words, it is predicated on meritocracy and equal opportunities within capitalism (Ladson-Billings 2005, p. 53). Ladson-Billings (ibid.) once again utilises a J. E. King concept, namely ‘expanding knowledge’ to locate this variety of multiculturalism. ‘Expanding knowledge’ refers to the process of multiculturalizing knowledge ‘without changing fundamentally the norm of middle classness in the social framework’s cultural model of being’ (King 2001, p. 275, cited in Ladson-Billings 2005, p. 53). It tries to address the concerns of all groups equally without disturbing the power structure (Ladson- Billings 2005, p. 53). Thus, as Ladson-Billings explains, most campuses offer programmes for all groups, but in isolation, and white middle class norms prevail (ibid.). Moreover, as she concludes, ‘[b]y acknowledging the existence of various groups while simultaneously ignoring the issues of power and structural inequity, liberal multiculturalism functions as a form of appeasement’ (ibid.).

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