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Asian Studies 1
Assignment 1
We have been doing quizzes and you were required to read some theories—Anglo
Conformity, Melting Pot and Cultural Pluralism.
In this assignment, you will choose to write about either Anglo-Conformity or Melting
Pot. You need to write three paragraphs.
The first paragraph is the introductory paragraph. You need to introduce a general
observation about what you think is the general relationship between Asians and the
dominant culture in the United States. Relate that observation to ONE theory. Define
the theory well, based on Gordon’s essay. You probably need to use some quotes from
Gordon’s essay to explain the theory. The last sentence of the paragraph is the thesis
statement.
You have choices in the supporting paragraphs:
A] refer to at least one of the readings to explain how the theories work, explaining your
thoughts about the theories. You need to provide adequate textual supports to explain
how the quotes are related to your understanding of the Assimilation Theory of your
choice.
OR
B] write a personal narrative of an experience or observation of the theory you have
chosen. This choice requires your narration to be directly relevant to the theory you will
be working on, making connection with Gordon’s essay. You will probably need some
textual references.
Remember to watch the video on how to turn in your assignment on Canvas before
turning in your assignment.
1
ETHNIC IDENTITY AND MAJORITY CULTURE
By Milton Gordon
ASSIMILATION IN AMERICA
Three ideologies or conceptual models have competed for attention on the American
scene as explanation of the way in which a nation, in the beginning largely white, Anglo-Saxon,
and Protestant, has absorbed over 41 million immigrants and their descendants from
variegated sources and welded them into the contemporary American people. These ideologies
are Anglo-conformity, the melting Pot, and cultural pluralism. They have served at various
times, and often simultaneously as explanations of what has happened–descriptive models-and of what should happen–goal models. Not infrequently they have been used in such a
fashion that it is difficult to tell which of these two usages the writer has had in mind. In fact,
one of the more remarkable omissions in the history of American intellectual thought is the
relative lack of close analytical attention given to the theory of immigrant adjustment in the
United States by its social scientists.
Anglo-Conformity
“Anglo-conformity” is a broad term used to cover a variety of viewpoints about
assimilation and immigration; they all assume the desirability of maintaining English
institutions (as modified by the American Revolution), the English language, and Englishoriented cultural patterns as dominant and standard in American life. However, bound up with
this assumption are related attitudes? These may range from discredited notion about race and
“Nordic” and “Aryan” racial superiority, together with the nativist political programs and
exclusionist immigration policies which such notions entail, through an intermediate position
of favoring immigration from northern and western Europe on amorphous unreflective grounds
(“They are morel like us”)’ to a lack of opposition to any source of immigration, as long as these
immigrants and their descendants duly adopt the standard Anglo-Saxon cultural patterns.
There is by no means any necessary equation between Anglo-conformity and racist attitudes.
It is quite likely that “Anglo-conformity” in its more moderate aspects, however explicit
its formulation, has been the most prevalent ideology of assimilation goals in America
throughout the nation’s history. As far back as colonial times, Benjamin Franklin recorded
concern about the clannishness of the Germans in Pennsylvania, their slowness in learning
English, and the establishment of their own native-language press. Others of the founding
fathers had similar reservations about large-scale immigration from Europe. In the context of
their times they were unable to foresee the role such immigration was to play in creating the
later greatness of the nation. They were not at all men of unthinking prejudices. The
2
disestablishment of religion and the separation of church and state (so that no religious group-whether New England Congregationalists, Virginian Anglicans, or even all Protestants
combined–could call upon the federal government for special favors or support, and so that
man’s religious conscience should be free) were cardinal points of the new national policy they
fostered. “The Government of the United States,” George Washington had written to the Jewish
congregation of Newport during his first term as president, “gives to bigotry no sanction, to
persecution no assistance.”
Political differences with ancestral England had just been written in blood; but there is
no reason to suppose that these men looked upon their fledgling country as an impartial
melting pot for the merging of the various cultures of Europe, or as a new “nation of nations,”
or as anything but a society in which, with important political modifications, Anglo-Saxon
speech and institutional forms would be standard. Indeed, their newly won victory for
democracy and republicanism made them especially anxious that these still precarious fruits of
revolution should not be threatened by a large influx of European peoples whose life
experiences had accustomed them to the bonds of despotic monarchy. Thus, although they
explicitly conceived of the new United States of America as a haven for those unfortunates of
Europe who were persecuted and oppressed, they had characteristics reservations about the
effects of too free a policy. “My opinion, with respect to immigration,” Washington wrote to John
Adams in 1794, “is that except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or
professions, there is no need of encouragement, while the policy or advantage of its taking
place in a body, (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for, by so
doing, they retain the language, habits and principles (good or bad) which they bring with
them.” Thomas Jefferson, whose views on race and attitudes towards slavery were notably
liberal and advanced for his time, had similar doubts concerning the effects of mass
immigration on American institutions, while conceding that immigrants, “if they come of
themselves…are entitled to all the rights of citizenship.”
Anglo-conformity received its fullest expression in the so-called Americanization
movement which gripped the nation during World War I. While “Americanization” in its various
stages had more than one emphasis, it was essentially a consciously articulated movement to
strip the immigrant of his native culture and attachments and make him over into an American
along Anglo-Saxon lines–all this to be accomplished with great rapidity. To use an image of a
later day, it was an attempt at “pressure-cooking assimilation.” It had prewar antecedents, but
it was during the height of the world conflict that federal agencies, state governments,
municipalities, and a host of private organizations joined in the effort to persuade the
immigrant to persuade the immigrant to learn English, take out naturalization papers, buy war
bonds, forget his former origins and culture, and give himself over to patriotic hysteria.
3
The Melting Pot
While Anglo-conformity in various guises has probably been the most prevalent ideology
of assimilation in the American historical experience, a competing viewpoint with more
generous and idealistic overtones has had its adherents and exponents from the eighteenth
century onward. Conditions in the virgin continent, it was clear, were modifying the
institutions which the English colonist brought with them from the mother country. Arrivals
from non-English homelands such as Germany, Sweden, and France were similarly exposed to
this fresh environment. Was it not possible, then, to think of the evolving American society not
as a slightly modified England but rather as a totally new blend, culturally and biologically, in
which the stocks and folkways of Europe, figuratively speaking, were indiscriminately mixed in
the political pot of the emerging nation and fused by the fires of American influence and
interaction into a distinctly new type?
Such, at any rate, was the conception of the new society which motivated that
eighteenth-century French-born writer and agriculturalist, J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, who,
after many years of American residence, published his reflections and observations in Letter
from an American Farmer. Who, he asks, is the American?
He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence
that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other
country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was
an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a
French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives
of different nations. He is an American, who leaving behind him all
his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the
new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys,
and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being
received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals
of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and
posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.
Some observers have interpreted the open-door policy on immigration of the first threequarters of the nineteenth century as reflecting an underlying faith in the effectiveness of the
American melting pot, in the belief that all could be absorbed and that all could contribute to
an emerging national character. No doubt many who observed with dismay the nativist
agitation of the times felt as did Ralph Waldo Emerson that such conformity-demanding and
immigrant-hating forces represented a perversion of the best American ideals. In 1845,
Emerson wrote in his journal:
I hate the narrowness of the Native American Party. It is the dog in
the manger. It is precisely opposite to all the dictates of love and
4
magnanimity;
and
therefore,
of
course,
opposite
to
true
wisdom…Man is the most composite of all creatures… Well, as in
the old burning of the Temple of Corinth, by the melting and
intermixture of silver and gold and other metals a new compound
more precious than any, called Corinthian brass, was formed; so
in this continent—asylum of all nations—the energy of Irish,
Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the European
tribes—of the Africans, and the Polynesians—will construct a new
race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature, which will be as
vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the smelting-pot of
the Dark Ages, or that which earlier emerged from the Pelagic and
Etruscan barbarism. La Nature aime les croisements.
Eventually, the melting pot hypothesis found its way into historical scholarship and
interpretation. While many American historians of the late nineteenth century, some fresh from
graduate study at German universities, tended to adopt the view that American institutions
derived in essence from Anglo-Saxon (and ultimately Teutonic) sources, others were not so
sure. One of these was Frederick Jackson Turner, a young historian from Wisconsin, not long
emerged from his graduate training at Johns Hopkins. Turner presented a paper to the
American Historical Association, meeting in Chicago in 1893. Called “The Significance of the
Frontier in American History,” this paper proved to be one of the most influential essays in the
history of American Scholarship, and its point of view, supported by Turner’s subsequent
writings and his teaching, pervaded the field of American historical interpretation for at least a
generation. Turner’s thesis was that the dominant influence in the shaping of American
institutions and American democracy was not this nation’s European heritage in any of its
forms, nor the forces emanating from the eastern seaboard cities, but rather the experiences
created by a moving and variegated western frontier. Among the many effects attributed to the
frontier environment and the challenges it presented was that it acted as a solvent for the
national heritages and the separatist tendencies of the many nationality groups which had
joined the trek westward, including the Germans and Scotch-Irish of the eighteenth century
and the Scandinavians and Germans of the nineteenth. “The frontier,” asserted Turner,
“promoted the formation of a composite nationality for the American people… In the crucible of
the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race, English
in neither nationality nor characteristics. The process has gone on from the early days to our
own.” And later, in an essay on the role of the Mississippi Valley, he refers to the tide of foreign
immigration which has risen so steadily that it has made a composite American people whose
amalgamation is destined to produce a new national stock.”
5
Cultural Pluralism
Probably all the non-English immigrants who came to American shores in any
significant numbers from colonial times onward—settling either in the forbidding wilderness,
the lonely prairie, or in some accessible urban slum—created ethnic enclaves and looked
forward to the preservation of at least some of their native cultural patterns. Such a
development, natural as breathing, was supported by the later accretion of friends, relatives,
and countrymen seeking out oases of familiarity in a strange land, by the desire of the settlers
to rebuild (necessarily in miniature) a society in which they could communicate in the familiar
tongue and maintain familiar institutions, and, finally, by the necessity to band together for
mutual aid and mutual protection against the uncertainties of a strange and frequently hostile
environment. This was as true of the “old” immigrants as of the “new.” In fact, some of the
liberal intellectuals who fled to America from the inhospitable political climate in Germany in
the 1830’s, 1840’s and 1850’s looked forward to the creation of an all-German state within the
union, or, even more hopefully, to the eventual formation of a separate German nation, as soon
as the expected dissolution of the union under the impact of the slavery controversy should
have taken place. Oscar Handlin, writing of the sons in Erin in mid-nineteenth-century Boston,
recent refugees from famine and economic degradation in their homeland, points out: “Unable
to participate in the normal associational affairs of the community, the Irish felt obliged to erect
a society within a society, to act together in their own way. In every contact therefore the group,
acting apart from other sections of the community, became intensely aware of its peculiar and
exclusive identity.” Thus cultural pluralism was a fact in American society before it became a
theory—a theory with explicit relevance for the nation as a whole, and articulated and
discussed in the English-speaking circles of American intellectual life.
Early in 1915 there appeared in the pages of The Nation two articles under the title
“Democracy versus the Melting-Pot.” Their author was Horace Kallen, a Harvard-educated
philosopher with a concern for the application of philosophy to societal affairs, and, as an
American Jew, himself derivative of an ethnic background which was the subject to the
contemporary pressures for dissolution implicit in the “Americanization,” or Anglo-conformity,
and the melting-pot theories. In these articles Kallen vigorously rejected the usefulness of these
theories as models of what was actually transpiring in American life or as ideals for the future.
Rather he was impressed by the way in which the various ethnic groups in America were
coincident with particular area and regions, and with the tendency for each group to preserve
its own language, religion, communal institution, and ancestral culture. All the while, he
pointed out, the immigrant has been learning to speak English as the language of general
communication, and has participated in the over-all economic and political life of the nation.
These developments in which “the United States are in the process of becoming a federal state
not merely as a union of geographical and administrative unities, but also as a cooperation of
6
cultural diversities, as a federation or commonwealth of national cultures,” the author argued,
far from constituting a violation of historic American political principles, as the “Americanizers”
claimed, actually represented the inevitable consequences of democratic ideals, since
individuals are implicated in groups, and since democracy for the individual must by extension
also mean democracy for his group.
The processes just described, however, as Kallen develops his argument, are far from
having been thoroughly realized. They are menaced by “Americanization” programs,
assumptions of Anglo-Saxon superiority, and misguided attempts to promote “racial”
amalgamation. Thus America stands at a kind of cultural crossroads. It can attempt to impose
by force an artificial, Anglo-Saxon oriented uniformity of its peoples, or it can consciously allow
and encourage its ethnic groups to develop democratically, each emphasizing its particular
cultural heritage. If the latter course is followed, as Kallen puts it at the close of his essay,
then,
The outlines of a possible great and truly democratic
commonwealth become discernible. Its form would be that of the
federal republic; its substance a democracy of nationalities,
cooperating voluntarily and autonomously through common
institutions in the enterprise of self realization through the
perfection of men according to their kind. The common language of
the commonwealth, the language of its great tradition, would be
English, but each nationality would have for its emotional and
involuntary life its own peculiar dialect or speech, its own
individual and inevitable esthetic and intellectual forms. The
political and economic life of the commonwealth is a single unit
and serves as the foundation and background for the realization of
the distinctive individuality of each nation that composes it and of
the pooling of these in a harmony above them all. Thus “American
civilization” may come to mean the perfection of the cooperative
harmonies of “European civilization”—the waste, the squalor and
the distress of Europe being eliminated—a multiplicity in a unity,
an orchestration of mankind.

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