Ethnocentrism

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William Sumner said it best when he described ethnocentrism as “the technical name for this view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it” (Sumner, 1906).Now, ethnocentric thinking is born, in the most basic form, from the belief in a useful quality in every person’s culture. This useful quality, or virtue as this paper will refer to it, can be one or many and about any area of society. When one identifies with this virtue because they have been taught to do so, they naturally reason at the most basic level of intercultural comprehension, if their way to think about a virtue is good, then any other way is bad. This is only a very simplistic example; however, it does demonstrate how ethnocentric opinions form in everyone, the difference being a person’s low or high-ethnocentric thought. This belief not only affects intercultural communications but also affects intra-cultural communications as well when it concerns micro-cultures within a larger society. The frame of reference that we use to view other societies outside of and within our own is colored by our degree of ethnocentrism. According to James Neuliep, “ethnocentrism fosters in group survival, solidarity, conformity, cooperation, loyalty, and effectiveness” (Neuliep, 2009).

The United States Congress passed its first piece of legislation concerning naturalization of foreign peoples in the new country. To this point, Congress only stated “…any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States” (TSL-EIF, 2008).However this could be done only after a period of two years residency. Until 1802, Congress passed laws every few years making it increasingly more difficult and complicated for aliens to become naturalized. In 1802, however, a new naturalization act made it significantly easier to become a citizen, decreasing the residency period from 14 years to only five (USCIS, 2006).It is important to note that in 1865 after the end of the American Civil War, Congress and the states passed the 13th Amendment making slavery illegal. Since1808 slaves were prevented from being brought into the U.S.; however those already in slavery and their posterity were doomed to stay there until the 13th’s passage, though it was not only Africans and Caribbean islanders who were brought in as forced labor. For a nearly 50 year span at the beginning of the colonization of the English colonies, poor Europeans would barter four to seven years of their life to un-paid labor in the colonies in exchange for a one-way trip there and land after completion of their time. Also (and this will be discussed more later on), Asian immigrants were forcibly brought over to work in California even after the passage of the 13th Amendment and the freedom of the slaves (TSL-EIF, 2008).Over the following decades many acts on immigration, naturalization, and the treatment of trans-Atlantic passengers were enacted. In 1875, Congress passed first act prohibiting undesirable immigrants from entering the country as well as the forced immigration of Asian immigrants as a new form of slave labor. In1882, the “Chinese Exclusion Act” marked the first piece of racially motivated legislation in the U.S. It primarily ordered the suspension of Chinese workers immigrating into the country, barred any Chinese already in the States from becoming naturalized, and only allowed Chinese intellectuals who were “proceeding to the United States… from curiosity” to enter the country on a temporary basis. In1885, the first of a series of Contract Labor Laws was passed, making it illegal to import foreigners into the country by contract for performing a certain number of years’ service – with a few exceptions (USCIS, 2006).Decades came and went with immigration legislation being passed, mostly making it more difficult and expensive to do so. Key legislation included: 1891’slegislation formally organizing...
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