Borders in Our Minds: the Development of Intolerance of Mexican Immigrants in the U.S.

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Borders in Our Minds:
 
The Development of Intolerance of
 
Mexican Immigrants in the United States
 
Stephanie Gregory
 
Alverno College
 

Borders in Our Minds: The Development of Intolerance of
Mexican Immigrants in the United States
Since the presidency under James Polk in 1844, many American citizens have, in one form or another, been in conflict with our neighbors to the south – the populace of Mexico. In the 19th century, however, those conflicts revolved mainly around ownership of land in what are now southwest regions of the United States (Scheffler, 2011). In modern society, American indifference toward Mexican immigrants exists in many other forms and plays a significant role in efforts to control Mexican natives entering the United States. It is my intention to bring to light various circumstances by which intolerance to Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans may have evolved. Such attempt will be made through: presentation of some of the various forms of bias currently in existence; application of the abstraction process as it applies to development of stereotypes; consideration of societal and cultural perspectives and how they may have precipitated non-acceptance of the Mexican immigrant into American society; and reflection on the roles in which Mexican immigrants have been placed that perpetuate stereotypes from an economic perspective. Finally, I will conclude by offering insight into that which I have derived from compilation of this paper from the perspective of one studying general semantics as part of an undergraduate program at Alverno College. This conclusion will include proposal for further consideration of the topic offered to the audience for which this paper is intended. The Basics of Bias

Since 2000, the Hispanic population in the United States has grown from 35.3 million (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000) to 50.3 million (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). This segment of the population has realized significant growth making then a large component of all American residents. One would tend to believe that given this growth, Mexicans would be viewed less as “aliens” and more as American citizens. In most instances, however, they are not considered the latter. They are considered different and in the past five years sociologists and civil rights attorneys have revealed many of the elements that play a role in the perpetuation of the bias numerous Americans hold toward Mexican immigrants. “They are [viewed as] disloyal . . . and refuse to assimilate” (Villareal, 2006) is one view of a Connecticut attorney who has spent many years defending minorities through legal activism (pg. 1). Villareal (2006) furthers his argument against American bias toward Mexican Americans by stating that “Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English” (pg. 1). These biases obviously exist, but how they perhaps developed and why they conceivably sustain is the subject matter to follow. From Neighbor to Nuisance: The Power of Abstraction

Objectivity and multi-perspective thinking is typically the product of the “constant interplay of higher-level and lower-level abstractions” (Hayakawa, 1990). It is the tendency to labor only at higher-levels of abstraction where one is inclined to stereotype. This is primarily due to the deduction that high-level abstraction is comprised of vagueness and generalities and it is this indistinct thinking that leads to standardized conceptions of common members of a group. These theories of high-level abstraction could very well account for bias against immigrants based upon linguistic differentials which reveal the tendency of individuals to stereotype or apply prejudice based upon language barriers. According to Nelson (2009), “linguistic bias mediates the extent to which people maintain stereotypic expectancies in the face of disconfirming information” (p. 499). Nelson predicates this concept upon studies of...
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