"What the problem of multiculturalism allows, however, with its etiolated relations of cultural recognition and pedagogical histories of failure, is a further misrepresentation of the power relations and hierarchies that multiculturalism emerged from. The irony of rhetorics of ‘all cultures are equal’ is that, after the manifest failure of the putative experiment, there is a widely held contention that this has been proved to be false. Approaching all cultures as equal – in the sense of equivalence, not equality – and hence equally open to criticism, posits a disabling relativism as the key ethical and political challenge for diverse societies.
However, these equivalences, as much as the cultural abstractions lined up against each other, are racially ordered. To criticize ‘white European culture’ as imperialist is not the same as claiming that all migrants are wife-beaters, or homophobes. The first contention, however furiously it is debated, makes little impact on the everyday lives of whites occupying hegemonic and relatively privileged social positions. The second, as well as overdetermining gender-based violence as cultural (A. Phillips 2007), has cumulative political power, requiring everyone ascribed to those groups to negotiate it in some form, and leading to the further demonization of large groups of people already diminished in power vis-à-vis the majority in the societies in which they live.
It is for this reason that multiculturalism has always been politicized as a form of unfairness, or reverse discrimination, or even reverse racism, as its culturalized predicates and programmatic solutions lend themselves to the denial of largely persistent power relations. When power and history are reduced and traduced, ‘an ontological naturalness or essentialism almost inevitably takes up residence in our understandings and explanations’ (W. Brown 2006: 15). It is these resident understandings which allow whites in Europe, North America and Australia to fixate on fears of ‘illiberal minorities’ as near-existential threats. In the face of this race is explanatory in a way culture is not, and it suggests that the certainties and recited truths of multicultural crisis are one of the central ways in which racist discourse is constructed today.”
-Alana Lentin & Gavan Titley, The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age