Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 95 E300
Location: Inside my head
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 392 Post(s)
RE: Something I've always wondered about Americans......
Even though there was a Dutch presence in the colonies; even though the Germans immigrated in huge numbers over a longer period then the Irish, there wasn't a hyphenated class distinction. We lived under the 'melting pot' theory, in which immigrants subsumed their own ethnicity or nationality and tried to assume some sort of generic American status. That status was predicated on being Ibero/Franco/German/Polish/Scandinavian/English/Scottish/Irish European. These countries had historical tribal ties to each other and England, originator of 12 of the 13 original colonies that comprised the USA.
Most of this melange is currently viewed as WASPs, though in truth, they're not just Anglo-Saxon by any stretch. These tribal ties were not as strong between the "WASPs" and the later immigrants from Balkans/Russian/Baltic/Belorussian/Georgian/Armenian Europeans, even though all were basically western-Christian culture. So their assimilation was more difficult but after a generation, they were pretty much in the door socially (except for the highly restrictive blue-bloods of the NE and some southern enclaves like Atlanta, Charleston, Savanna, and New Orleans).
This paradigm was challenged by the great eastern European and Italian immigration waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the steady, small influx of Chinese and the Jewish immigrants. These immigrants tended to maintain strong familial, clan or cummunal ties or had such alien cultures (or appearance) to 'normal' Americans (white, etc) that they were rejected by the 'norm. They are mostly assimilated after a generation or so in modern times. I know a PHD New Orleanian from an old Jewish family in NOLA who has a bumper sticker, "Shalom, ya'll". That's assimilated.
The black Americans, Mexicans-Americans and Indians had an especially difficult assimilation for various racial/ethnocentric reasons. The obvious problem blacks faced was extreme prejudice from virulent former slave ownership societies and from non-ownership societies who saw poor black refugees from the southern states as a job threat in northern cities. That racism persists in attitude, if not law. It's worth noting however, that NOWADAYS black African and Caribbean immigrants generally advance economically out of poverty within a time not much different from other immigrants.
Mexicans and native Indians faced the hostility of defeated people by the conquerors. That's a persistent PIA, too.
The interesting emerging and evolving paradigm of being an American is not one of race, origin, religion, etc, that defines nations in most other countries. There is a great mobility from immigrant to establishment that through hard work and luck can bring people from racial hostility and poverty to the pinnacle of power and wealth. That list is very long and as varied as the faces of the people who call themselves American.
A really interesting question to ask any American is, "What is an American?" I'll bet none of us agrees beyond some legal definition of citizenship.
Heck, just watch the comments among Americans on this (or any) forum and you'll see folks haranguing each other for being poor citizens or uncaring or unpatriotic, etc. You've seen it, I'm sure. Though we don't know WTF an American is, we are constantly amazed that we can disagree with people so strenuously and that those other nitwits call themselves Americans.
Let me turn the table on you folks who are not Americans. Wow would you answer the question, "What is an American?"
PS here's one definition: An American is a person who loves the way Ray Charles sang, "America the Beautiful".