The Melting Pot, then and now

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Those who are the critics of today’s uncontrolled, promiscuous immigration often say that today’s immigrants are not immigrants in the old sense, but colonists, here to establish a foothold, hoping to ensconce themselves in enclaves which are bound to grown into outright colonies, outposts of their people and culture and language. With the many different races, ethnicities, religions and languages, our country will be divided up into a crazyquilt of unrelated and competing peoples.

But this was already happening almost 100 years ago, when various European peoples had attained a place here in the U.S., with their own institutions, such as schools and churches — and many different foreign language newspapers across the country.

“At least some of the leaders among the immigrant peoples have thought of the United States as a region to be colonized by Europeans, where each language group would maintain its own language and culture, using English as a lingua franca and means of communicating among the different nationalities.”

Park, Robert Ezra, The Immigrant Press and Its Control, 1920, p. 60

A Polish-American priest says:

“There is no reason for the English to usurp the name of American. They should be called Yankees if anything. That is the name of English-Americans. There is no such thing as an American nation. Poles form a nation, but the United States is a country, under one government, inhabited by representatives of different nations.
[…]I do not think there will be amalgamation — one race composed of many. The Poles, Bohemians, and so forth, remain such, generation after generation.”

from Balch, Emily, Our Slavic Fellow Citizens, 1910, pp. 398-399

A German-American says, on the idea of the ‘Melting pot’:

“Some years ago there appeared under the title of ‘The Melting Pot,’ a drama of which the author, a well-known Zionist leader, Israel Zangwill, announced as wisdom’s last word, that America has become a melting pot into which the different races and nationalities, together with everything that mark them as such — their speech, their tradition, their customs, and their rules of life — were to be thrown in order that they might thereby be converted into Americans.

For us German-Americans the teaching of this play is simply a mixture of insipid phrases and unhistorical thinking. It is just the contrary of that toward which we strive, and this doctrine must be so much the more sharply and decisively antagonized by us as it is enthusiastically accepted by the thoughtless rabble. For we did not come into this American nation as an expelled and persecuted race, seeking help and protection, but as a part of this nation, entitled to the same consideration as every other, and as a member of a noble race that has found here its second home and in common with its blood-related Anglo-Saxon peoples, founded and built up this nation. Neither is it necessary for us to permit ourselves to be twisted and reformed into Americans, for we are Americans in the political sense — and only in this — as soon as we swear allegiance and unite ourselves to the common body of our German-American people.”

Further on, he adds that ‘forced uniformity’ of the different peoples in America amounted to the destruction of those things they held most dear in their people and culture. He objected to the threat to the  ‘God-given diversity’ which would be lost in amalgamating everyone into an ‘artificial mold’ of Americanness.

“The open or secret attempt to do away with our German cultural type[…]our speech, our customs, and our views of life — in the smudge kitchen of a national melting pot has its source in a similar illusion and will likewise, even if some other way, revenge itself.”

The book in which the above quotes appeared, being about the immigrant press, emphasizes the importance of the foreign language press which played a big part in maintaining a sense of separateness and national distinctions in the increasinly polyglot America of 1920.

The German press in America, directed at immigrant newcomers, was also read by the American-born descendants of the early immigrants, as was the case with much of the ethnic press.

The purpose of these foreign-language papers, for many, was to
maintain a sense of ethnic cohesion within the immigrant groups, and a feeling of separateness from the native-born American population. The German-language press in America continued to be important among the immigrants and their progeny until World War II, when the stress of possible divided loyalties took its toll.

It would seem that for some generations, there was little desire on the part of European immigrants to be melted down in the fabled melting pot. Robert Park’s book hints that the popular belief, that early immigrants came here eager to assimilate and willing to give up their ties to Europe, was erroneous. That rosy version of American history seems widespread amongst many White Americans.

The author of the book, Robert Ezra Park, emphasized that the act of emigrating usually increases attachment to the ‘old country’ and natural feelings of nostalgia, the pull of pleasant memories of one’s homeland. Nationalistic and ethnocentric feelings often increase when people emigrate. This seems as true now as then. It seems that most of those immigrating to the West in our day expect to bring their homeland with them, and to stay immersed in their own culture, in their native language. Here in the US, Latino immigrants have several Spanish-language TV channels, filled with open-borders propaganda and anti-Gringo sentiments, hardly likely to make Americans of them.

But is this bad? People are not interchangeable, and immigrants, depending on their native culture and their genetic distance from us, may be unable as well as unwilling to ‘assimilate’ to us.

For many civic nationalists, assimilation is the goal; immigrants, supposedly, should be Americanized as much as possible, and adopt our language and our ways. But what if this ‘assimilation’ entails our adapting to their ways more than vice-versa?

And assimilation ultimately means intermarriage, blending of our genetics with the colonizers. Few civic nationalists and ‘middle-of-the-road’ type Republicans seem to get this, or maybe they have already made their peace with our folk being the ones melted down in the cauldron. Judging by the self-reported prevalence of our folk intermarrying with the colonizers, we’re already on the way to becoming Brazil of the North.

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