“Society is unity in diversity”, - George Herbert Meade. To complement Meade, I would suggest that the best societies are united by diversity. Multiculturalism within global cities is a powerful and complex aspect that impacts societies around the world. More so than ever, globalization of cultures, information, and life has been escalating.
If you were to sit on the street in Sydney and count the different nationalities of people passing-by, then you may very well be overwhelmed. The same is true for Los Angeles, the second most globally diverse city in the United States. Both global cities serve as important case studies into the way multiculturalism is at work within large populations of people. These cities’ histories, cultures, global impact, and futures can be told through their migrant populations, and it is interesting to study how these cities have been impacted and what the growth of immigration will prove for these global cities in time to come.
To begin, a point of interest that Sydney and Los Angeles share is their relatively short histories as established hubs. Sydney was only established as a convict colony in 1788; and, for the latter, Los Angeles was founded as a Spanish colonial city in 1781 and hosted less than 1000 residents up to the 1830’s. The impact and growth of multiculturalism within these cities has proven to be the catalyst for the rich and complex cultures found today. Both cities also rank in the top 10 for Total Immigration Index amongst global cities (Benton).
The tides of cultural change in Sydney were not noticeable until after World War II ended and a great acceleration in world populations and migration commenced. Multiculturalism and immigration became a defining staple of the city, pushing societal norms and integration to new limits. At first, the influx and integration of non-British migrants to the ‘Australian way of life’ was the ideal to be followed. There was an expectation in policy for migrants to seamlessly marry Australian society and become local patriots, all the while abandoning their national allegiances (Ozdowski, 1).
However, upon arrival, migrants did not assimilate into the Anglo-Celtic melting pot but established their own communities with their own lively institutions. This was done in effort to continue their culture in the process of settlement, and, in turn, expanded the facet of multiculturalism in Sydney. While Australia’s post-war immigration policy was originally driven by economic imperatives, Australian governments eventually came to recognize the societal benefits of inviting full community participation by the immigrant populations in return for a respect for, and embracing in, the cultures and customs that have been transported by immigration (Bowen, 4).
In modern Sydney, the assimilation and pledge of acceptance to Australian life comes much easier, as it is centered on multiculturalism. The pledge of commitment to Australian life, which is taken to be a citizen, goes as follows: “loyalty to Australia and its people…whose democratic beliefs I share…whose rights and liberties I respect…and whose laws I will uphold and obey”. And to Bowen is “the most beautiful citizenship pledge in the world”. Whereas other nations have mechanical pledges promising allegiance to king or government, this symbolizes more than that. It does not just recognize the economic benefits of new workers, as Australia is not a guest worker society; but, rather, it holds respect for the people sharing democratic beliefs, laws, and rights (Bowen, 3).
It is important that Australians, especially in Sydney, buy into the beliefs of a multicultural centered democratic population. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 44% of the population was either born overseas or have one or both parents born overseas. In addition to this, over 260 languages are spoken (Australian). Furthermore, the acceptance of Australian beliefs expands beyond laws and rights, but, most importantly, the acceptance of English as the primary language is paramount.
In the diverse microcosm of the St. George basin nearly 50% of residents speak some other language at home (Collins, 88). Sydney proves to be a significant case for global multicultural policy at a time when widespread ethnic diversity and the association of conflict and crisis are shaped together. It is quite the achievement to settle such a multicultural population without major social conflict done so through the overall acceptance of different cultures to form one (Collins, 86). On the contrary, migrants have proven beneficial to the economy and the projections only increase as the years go by. In 2008, Access Economics found that migrants entering through 2006-2007 would benefit the economy by roughly $700 million in their first year and a continued increase to around $1.4B by their 20th year (Access).
It is clear that Sydney plays host to a multicultural population. Their diverse and complex unity of cultures makes for a lively city and surprisingly safe social structure due to the acceptance of Australian life by migrants. Unfortunately, whenever there are diverse groups of people living close to one another there will be an impact of racial discriminations. Sydney is no exception to the primitive and tribal challenges of racial abuse, although racism is much less prevalent than in other global cities. Bowen suggests: “During our multicultural journey, every wave of migrants has its challenges. When I was growing up it was concern over Asian migrants. Each generation expresses some anxiety about the new, the unfamiliar” (Bowen, 7). This is a vital aspect to acculturation, but, the more diverse a city becomes the less relevant race becomes.
Sydney being an incredibly multicultural city has had its benefits in this area of social turmoil towards migrants. A national data survey from the Challenging Racism Project reported that direct individual experience of racist behavior is relatively low – from 6-7% who have experienced direct physical attacks or unfair treatment to some 20% who have experienced racial slurs and offensive gestures. The survey also demonstrated a very high level of awareness of racism amongst the Australian public, and possibly moral condemnation and disapproval of it (Ozdowski). A study done through Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) also reported a mere 5% of recent humanitarian entrants reporting discrimination, mostly on the street or public transport.
Sydney has a contemporary history of migrant influx which displays a cohesive way of life for those within the city. The migrant population contributes economically, politically, and racially to the structure of the city, and proves why it is considered a global city. But, what of the other city in question? How does Los Angeles compare to the vibrant migrant population to the city down under?
Los Angeles County’s immigration population is reaching its largest margin since 1870: about 3.5 million immigrants are living there, making-up 35% of the population. Almost 80% of the immigrant population has arrived since 1980, 20% of which have arrived in the last decade. The immigrant population is comprised mostly of Mexican migrants (41%), with other immigrants coming from Central America, the Philippines, and Korea (Pastor). The atmosphere for Los Angeles’ immigrant population has been warm and inviting, both culturally and institutionally. Like Sydney, a disproportionate amount of the total US immigrant population lives in LA: one in twelve of the nation’s immigrants. The large, lively quantity of immigrants makes for capable and cumbersome assimilation into society. For one, economic benefits create financial advancement for immigrants over time; but, unfortunately, the steady influx of immigrants creates an overall economic depression for the migrant population in struggling areas.
Home life for immigrants in Los Angeles is similar to that of Sydney. Nearly 60% of Los Angeles residences speak a language other than English at home. Aside from this, the immigrant population also contributes greatly to the economic commerce of Los Angeles; contributing towards nearly 40% of the city’s total GDP. This proves that the immigrant population is an integral part of Los Angeles society and will continue to serve as a catalyst of globalization for the city.
Los Angeles County, much like greater Sydney, is one of the most populous areas in their nations, respectively. The immense population is multicultural, lively, and both the result of and ingredient for globalization. The impact of globalization on the city’s future will be significant as more and more foreign-born residents move in and bring their culture with them, as well as contribute to the outflow of information, influence, and culture from Los Angeles once settled. Currently, the city has become a focal point for political engagement as the discussions of racial discrimination and illegal immigration burns hot for immigrants from the south; these concerns differ from that of Sydney’s immigration population mainly due to the proximity of Mexico.
Los Angeles is a sanctuary city – a testament to the area’s openness to its multicultural populous. Perhaps ahead of entrance cities such as New York and Chicago, Los Angeles remains dedicated to its immigrant population and changing policy both locally and nationally to ensure amalgamation of its citizens. Unfortunately, Los Angeles’ migrants face turmoil in the form of removals and layered immigration regulation brought on by the federal government attacking illegal aliens, some of whom were separated from their children who were born in the United States, deeming them natural born citizens. The situation in Los Angeles has largely become political as the federal government, state government, Constitution, Supreme Court, and President all have different interests in the area regarding the power to enforce immigration reform and to what extent (Papazian).
In addition to being a hotbed for immigration, racial discrimination for immigrants proves worse in Los Angeles than Sydney. The majority of immigrants discriminated against come from Mexico and Central America. Discrimination occurs in everyday life for Latinos in Los Angeles, from the workplace and storefronts to the streets. Many immigrants find themselves in a survival strategy once coming to Los Angeles; this means they must resort to the ‘gig’ economy or petty proprietorship that has historically been one of the few survival strategies available to ethnic and racialized groups (Trevizo). Even if given workplace employment, many face steep rates of discrimination. “Among Latinos, a quarter said they had recently been subject to unfair treatment in a public place and more than one-third reported workplace discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity” (Healy). Unfortunately, in the street and on public transport these rates are even higher. It is an unfortunate reality for many in Los Angeles where multiculturalism is widespread, yet discrimination remains pertinent.
Overall, Los Angeles relates to Sydney as a globally diverse city in many beneficially significant ways, as well as some negative. Both cities have risen from establishment just a couple hundred years ago but have become the homes of millions as multicultural hubs. They relate in the fact that their immigrant populations contribute a large majority to their global growth and will continue to be influential to their societies. Sometimes there are negatives that come along with being a new person in a new city, but these resilient global cities have proven to be sanctuaries to any looking for solace. Home regions are culturally constructed and are geographically and historically contingent. They exist to serve fundamental individual and group needs, and, as human constructs and cultural products, they also sustain these needs (Terkenli, 324). Sydney and Los Angles both serve as home-regions to millions and will continue to be contingent into the vast growth of their futures.