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RACE AND ETHNICITY

A. Cult of Ethnicity

The US escaped the divisiveness of a multiethnic society by a brilliant solution: the creation of a brand-new national identity. The point of America was not to preserve old cultures but to forge a new, American culture. This was the ideal that a century later Israel Zangwill crystallized in the title of his popular 1908 play The Melting Pot. The new American identity was inescapably English in language, ideas and institutions. The pot did not melt everybody, not even all the white immigrants; deeply bred racism put black Americans, yellow Americans, red Americans and brown Americans well outside the pale. In the 20th century, new immigration laws altered the composition of the American people, and a cult of ethnicity erupted both among non-Anglo whites and among nonwhite minorities. This had many healthy consequences. The American culture at last began to give shamefully overdue recognition to the achievements of groups subordinated and spurned during the high noon of Anglo dominance, and it began to acknowledge the great swirling world beyond Europe. Americans acquired a more complex and invigorating sense of their world – and of themselves. But, pressed too far, the cult of ethnicity has unhealthy consequences. It gives rise, for example, to the conception of the U.S. as a nation not of individuals making their own choices but of inviolable ethnic and racial groups. It rejects the historic American goals of assimilation and integration. And, in an excess of zeal, well-intentioned people seek to transform our system of education from a means of creating „one people” into a means of promoting, celebrating and perpetuating separate ethnic origins and identities.

B. Cubans

|The Cubans of Miami are America’s most successful post-war immigrants. Though they represent only a third of Miami’s population, they | |dominate the politics and economy of southern Florida. Their mean household income, according to Strategy Research, a Miami-based group,| |is $50,250, nearly $700 more than the national Latino average. The Cubans who fled in the 1960s were an educated elite, schooled in the | |tradition that Cuba was the most sophisticated country in Latin America. | |Perhaps most importantly, politics plays a role in the Cuban community unlike that in other Latino group. The Cubans originally came to | |America not because they chose to better themselves. They came because a political upheaval drove them there. Cubans sometimes compare | |themselves to the Palestinians and see themselves not as immigrants, engaging in the country of their adoption, but as exiles, | |temporarily building a base from which to return. | |The mentality of exile can be pressed too far. “We live here, we live in day-to-day society,” says Domingo Moreira, an influential | |member of the main lobby group, the Cuban American National Foundation. Thomas Wenski, the auxiliary bishop of Miami, points out that | |the very act of organizing themselves politically and sending representatives to Congress shows the Cubans are following the path of | |assimilation blazed by other groups such as the Italians and Irish. | |What marks the Cubans out is the role that politics, and in particular the politics of Cuba, plays in their affairs. Few | |Mexican-Americans are involved in the doings of the PRI. When a law was passed recently permitting them dual nationality, hardly anyone | |applied. But overthrowing the Castro regime is the raison d’etre of the leaders of Miami’s Cubans. And every day, 90 miles away, Fidel | |Castro – a product of the same cultural background as the Miami exiles – provokes his enemies across the seas, skillfully keeping the | |politics of his...
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