Leave the Ghetto
An Australian correspondent of mine put it as follows.
In Australia [...], the indigenous people get very generous welfare (education, housing, medical, etc) support. In some cases, this is deserved but misdirected; tribal populations in the outback get a massive amount of funding, but [...] can't solve the problems inherent in a basically Stone Age culture trying to co-exist with the 21st century. And on the other hand, we have people who identify themselves as being Aborigines, because one of their 34 great, great, great grandparents were Aboriginal [...], and also getting more generous welfare than a fifth generation Anglo-Saxon/Celtic Australian (or a 2nd generation Swedish-Australian, or a 1st generation African-Australian).I say, get off the reservation. Leave the ghetto. In Australia, it would probably be better not to give Aborigines (however such a group may be defined) money to stay in the outback. Better to use it to fund free education and public construction projects in the cities and encourage people in the outback to take part of them. That way, most Australian Aborigines would pretty soon move to the cities, become reasonably affluent and lose touch with non-adaptive traditional lifestyles. It'll be hard to discriminate against Aboriginal-looking people once they all have MBA degrees.
Like all anthropologists, I am a cultural relativist. This position most often takes the expression that "modern Western culture is not intrinsically more valuable than traditional ones". But it goes both ways, really. Traditional cultures are not intrinsically more valuable than the modern Western one. Indeed, no culture has any value at all except in relation to Human Rights: they're all constructed anew each morning anyway. It is of no value to a society, nor to ethnic minorities themselves, that they be encouraged to stay on reservations and in ghettos and remain stuck in unemployment and drug abuse.
In my opinion, the only way that ethnic and phenotypical minorities can actually have equal opportunities is if their members assume places inside majority society through education and employment. Reservation life is just a pale shadow of what these cultures were like in the pre-colonial past. I don't see why it would be useful to anyone that some people be kept, and keep themselves, as cultural museum exhibits. Most reservations were selected as such because they were undesirable to majority society: often awkwardly located patches of badlands. The first priority for members of modern ethnic minorities should not be to remain ethnically distinct and preserve their traditions, but to thrive and contribute to whatever culture works now. Adapt and survive.
My perspective on these things is of course coloured by the fact that I belong to the majority population of a state that was recently identified by The Economist as the world's strongest democracy: Sweden. My ideas on ethnic minorities presuppose that society is reasonably democratic, where the rights of all citizens are protected and where the legal system works. This is unfortunately not the case for most people on Earth. I have also been brought up in an individualistic culture where the most important thing is not to be part of one's people but to be free. I have no relationship to any Swedish tribe or nation: I am an individual relating to other individuals and to the state. I realize that this is very far from how most pre-industrial cultures saw things. But the world is no longer pre-industrial. And if we believe that all cultures are equally valuable as long as they respect Human Rights, then there is no reason for people to stay on reservations or in ghettos any more. Because there they have far less chance of enjoying those rights.
[More blog entries about politics, ethnic, minorities, indigenous; politik, minoriteter, ursprungsbefolkningar.]