Ethnic Americans: Immigration and American Society

Do We Really Want Immigrants to Assimilate?
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The United States, however, is the first nation to bind together a disparate group of people who eventually emerged as one indivisible nation that celebrated its multicultural past while, at the same time, trying to make all white people look like they came from the same cookie cutter. Non—Anglo-Saxon newcomers have always been expected to adapt to, and blend in with, the people already here. People of darker skin, and later those of other races, were kept in subordinate positions and shunned when they tried to blend in with the majority.

Thus, along with multiculturalism, immigrants of varying stripes were made to feel inferior and less worthy as individuals until their differences no longer stood out. Thus, along with a quasi tolerance for other people to help build the British colonies, and later the United States, into major political powers, demands were made that those who chose to live in this country absorb the major elements of the dominant culture. For those who would, or could, not do this because of race, religion, or political beliefs, acceptance would not only be withdrawn but they would be physically attacked, disparaged, and discouraged from remaining among us.

Respect for the newcomers did not coincide with the economic benefits that they helped provide to the nation. There seemed no tolerance on the part of members of the dominant culture for people who worshipped differently from mainstream Protestants, who spoke a foreign language, or whose cultural values differed from those valued by Americans.

Immigrants in American History

Moreover, there seemed, and even seems today, that there was no understanding that newcomers felt most secure living among others like themselves, speaking the same language, and continuing with customs that nurtured them before their arrival in the United States. Thus, from the denunciation of Scots-Irish and others in colonial America, through the attacks upon the Irish, the Chinese, the Italians, the Slavs, and the Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the scorning of Latinos in the twentieth century, we see the ugly heads of racism and nativism coexisting with our rhetoric of welcome and tolerance.

Americans, for example, who have wanted to assist or elevate newcomers to fit in with the majority in the United States have, in effect, told immigrants that aspects of their cultures were less than praiseworthy and that to become real Americans they had to absorb existing values.

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Also, in our own day, we look down upon people who do not show high regard for educational and business accomplishment, who prefer glorification of family and group over individual achievement, and who may practice some other religions that are not fully understood by the Judeo-Christian tradition. While reading this text it is important to keep these ideas in mind. Note always how immigrants are treated and how they are evaluated in terms of how closely they approach the Anglo-Saxon ideals physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

And notice, as well, how scorned, how rejected, and how viciously they have been treated because they could, or would, not conform to dominant American values.

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For more than three decades, Ethnic Americans has been hailed as a classic history of immigration to America. Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers. Results 1 - 16 of Ethnic Identification Among Urban Latinos: Language and Flexibility (The New Americans: Recent Immigration and American Society).

These traits have always been present in the United States and have reflected themselves in different ways, at different times, and with different groups. Thus, racism and nativism have always been present along with acceptance and encouragement. And in every era most Americans, even those who have descended from groups previously denounced, accept the ways of the dominant culture and are threatened by others who they claim desire to undermine the pillars of society.

In spite of the hostility that many immigrants encountered, millions kept coming to America. Some sought political rights and others wanted to worship as they pleased. Still others were refugees and had no hope for changes at home. Most, as is still the case today, were searching for economic opportunities. The immigrants often struggled to get ahead, but for those who did not speak English, were not white, and had little education, mobility was difficult.

Ethnic Americans: Immigration and American Society

Still, they usually managed to improve their lot, if only modestly. Yet the chances they found in America prompted them to tell their families and friends that they too should come to the United States. For many, American dreams were about their children and grandchildren. For white immigrants a better life for their descendants was usually realized.

For nonwhites the path upward was much more difficult.

I. Views of Immigrants

From to he was Editor-in-Chief of Die Welt. Many older Asian immigrants call Hawaii their home. Older adults who are immigrants, non-white, or ethnic minorities will become increasingly common. Skin color still matters. Dozens of Lutheran schools also dropped instruction in the German language. Oktoberfest celebrations and the German-American Day are popular festivities. Immigration policy will also shape the future numbers of immigrants, their types, their origins, and ultimately their incorporation into the broader society.

Even today these hopes are strong, and the list of those wanting to try their luck in America remains long. Nearly every school child knows that Christopher Columbus, sailing under the flag of Spain in , inaugurated the European exploration, conquest, and eventual settlement of the Americas. Columbus himself completed four voyages to the New World, but he never set foot on what became the continental United States.

Melting Pot or Cultural Pluralism ? Changing views on American ethnicity

Spain, like Columbus, looked to the Caribbean islands, Central and South America, and Mexico as the valuable regions to be explored and conquered, for there lay the treasures of gold and silver that enriched the Spanish conquistadors and monarchs. In the long run Spain wasted the products of the Western Hemisphere, but the initial wealth proved immediately attractive. While the main Spanish empire lay below the southern border of the eventual United States, the Spanish were active north of the Rio Grande River too.

Iberians founded the first European colonial settlement, St. Augustine, in , and later several other places in present-day Florida. The colonies in Spanish Florida, however, were never large, and when Great Britain took over Florida, many of the Iberian settlers fled. They came back when Spain resumed control of the area. The government in Madrid, however, never encouraged other Spaniards to settle in Florida, and restricted their possession to Roman Catholics and native inhabitants, whom they tried to convert to the true faith.

Spanish settlements were also developed in the Southwest of what is now the United States. They included present-day Texas but the adventurers did not find gold or silver there. Instead they worked as ranchers and farmers. In an attempt to boost the population of its Texas lands, Spain imported Spanish-speaking Canary Islanders, but only a few thousand people came. Several thousand Canary Islanders, though, went to Louisiana when Spain took over that territory from the French in In turn, the French sold the entire Louisiana territory, which stretched north and west as far as present-day Montana.

At the time of the transfer Louisiana contained only 40, persons, half of whom were black slaves.

It was in the present state of New Mexico that Spain made its major impact and where most of its colonists resided. Santa Fe, the capital of the present state, was founded in , three years after the English arrived in Jamestown. Spaniards ruled harshly in the Southwest and the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico revolted in the s, remaining independent until Spain resumed control after putting down the insurrection only a few years later. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico and the United States was signed at the end of the Mexican-American War, this country acquired the entire southwestern territory, which stretched into present-day California.

However, about 60, of the 75, people residing there lived in what is now New Mexico. In the United States purchased an additional stretch of land in New Mexico and Arizona, to facilitate the building of a transcontinental railroad in the southern portion of the country. Although Spaniards pursued gold and silver in the Western Hemisphere, the Spanish government restricted the numbers of settlers to Roman Catholics.

As a result, Franciscan missions dotted areas in New Mexico, Arizona, and along the coast of California, where the towns were run by priests, soldiers, and government officials. Elite Spaniards living in the newly acquired territories had already turned to the cattle industry and had prospered before the United States took control of these lands.

When the United States took over, and despite promises made in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to respect the rights of the people already there, many of the original owners lost their property, while the others who retained control were weakened when the cattle boom ended in the s.

Despite the beauty of the American Southwest, few Spaniards desired to start life anew in a distant and undeveloped continent. Eventually, only a few thousand of the , Spaniards in the New World chose to live north of the Rio Grande River. Without a substantial number of women, with or without families, willing to go to the New World, the settlements remained small. In the sixteenth century, when other European nations saw wealth arriving in Spain, British, French, and Dutch ships attacked and looted the vessels returning from the New World. However, the nations that began their search later founded colonies in the Caribbean and then on the North American continent.

Not only were they searching for minerals but sugar produced in the Caribbean offered another form of wealth for plantation owners. So, too, did animal furs as well as several products produced on the mainland like tobacco, rice, and cotton. The main French interest in the New World was in Canada but not many people settled there.

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Like the Spanish, the French government wanted only Roman Catholics in their colonies and, again like the people in Spain, most of the French preferred to remain at home. France had some influence in introducing French culture in Louisiana and especially in New Orleans, but since the area was poor, unhealthy, and dangerous, it lacked appeal to women. So the French government sent mostly male prisoners and indentured servants to labor in Louisiana, and also encouraged the slave trade.

In , Dutch colonial efforts began with the founding of New Amsterdam later renamed New York when the British assumed control of the colony in The West India Company that ran the colony from Holland cared primarily about profits, which they found to some extent in the fur trade with the American Indians. Unlike the French and Spanish governments, the Dutch, and later the English, welcomed almost anyone of European heritage to reside in the areas that they controlled.

As a result of this policy not only did the colony become diverse and prosper, but it set the tone for future settlements in New York City of people from every area of the world. Despite the liberal policy of acceptance that characterized the Dutch and English governments, as well as the chartered companies that promoted growth in the New World, both the Dutch and English settlers sought to isolate themselves from other colonists. Most of the non-Dutch and non-English regarded these groups as aloof, but that did not seem to bother those developing their own communities and celebrating their own cultures.

The Dutch, who settled mainly in New York and New Jersey, are representative of immigrants to America who held on to their cultures and values for several generations. They considered their heritage too important an aspect of their lives to relinquish it easily. Unlike the English, Dutch law gave women greater property and inheritance rights.

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Partners in a Dutch marriage held property equally, and widows with children split inheritances. This change, like others within the eighteenth-century Dutch community, marked the gradual loss of Dutch culture. Worship in the Dutch language continued in some parts of New York and New Jersey until the s, while some future generations of farmers continued using the Dutch dialogue in these states as late as the twentieth century. Both the Dutch and the English, like most other Protestant groups, then and in subsequent generations, regarded education highly, and their children learned not only the three Rs but also enough religion to make them God-fearing Christians.

Instruction was in their native tongues until approximately the eighteenth century when English became dominant, but not universal, throughout the United States. Both sexes were taught the same things in their earliest years, including careful instruction in the Bible. As the children grew, girls received instruction in sewing and other domestic arts while boys were directed toward more sophisticated learning. In the long run, English settlers came to dominate life in British America.

They sent more people to the colonies from the homeland than did any other European nation before the end of the eighteenth century. These men and women, and later the Scots and Scots-Irish, set the tone of the colonies while expecting others to give up their own cultures and blend with the majority. No group was absorbed immediately, although one of the fastest to disappear, the French Huguenots Protestants , practically passed from the scene by the second or third generation.

For some newcomers, however, such as some of the Germans in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, it took two to four generations, and even longer in some cases, before acculturation and then assimilation occurred. The first English colonists to arrive on the North American continent came directly from England to Virginia. The settlement at Jamestown in resulted from the visions of some London-based fortune hunters. These early colonists had difficulty surviving and many died within a few months. There is wide agreement that clandestine immigration should be stopped and legal immigration should be tightly controlled.

There are arguments over the numbers and types of immigrants to be admitted, but the idea that sovereign states can and should control population movements across borders is virtually unchallenged.

Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.

However, there is a considerable body of research which shows that the motivations for international migration are huge and that the rewards to migrants, employers, and societies both sending and receiving are enormous. The mass media routinely report the extraordinary investments and ingenuity of Latin Americans, Chinese, and Africans who seek to migrate to North America and Europe. Many of these efforts lead to capture and humiliating treatment as criminals. In other instances, many migrants die when they are locked into shipping containers or attempt to traverse the deserts without sufficient water and other provisions.

Yet they continue to come.