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Multiculturalism emphasizes the unique characteristics of multiplicity of cultures in the world, especially as they relate to one another in America.

Diane Ravitch identifies the two main currents of multiculturalism as pluralistic and particularist. Pluralistic multiculturalism views each culture or subculture in a society as contributing unique and valuable cultural aspects to the whole culture ("melting pot"). Particularist multiculturalism is more concerned with preserving the distinctions between cultures.

Particularists often deride Western Christendom in general or specifically America as narrowly "Eurocentric". For example, Edward Said's book Orientalism claims Westerners are inherently incapable of understanding Islam.

It is often difficult to distinguish the two currents Ravitch describes, as the celebration of a "diversity" can mask a hostility toward a mainstream which has ignored blacks, women, American Indians and so on in American history.

In common usage in the UK, 'multicultural' is used, for instance, to refer to localities in cities where people of different cultures co-exist. The actions of planners and those engaged in formulating public housing policy can result in some areas remaining monocultural, often due to pressure groups active in the local political arena.