Discussing cultural diversity in immigration is very difficult, which is why I find an article published on July 4 so refreshing, even if I may not agree with it entirely.
Michael Lind, author and founder of New America, a public policy think tank, wrote on July 4 an article in Politico, How To Fix America’s Identity Crisis. It’s a stimulating exploration of the problematic history of diversity in America.
He says that until 1965 U.S. immigration policy was largely accepting of only Europeans – persons who call themselves “white.” The first naturalization act in 1790 limited citizenship to immigrants who were “free white persons.”
Politics during the big immigration wave before and after 1990 was severely affected by nationality conflicts. I grew up in the 1950s with the waning of these enmities. Between the Civil War and the 1960s, American immigration policy has been one of bringing in workers without imperiling white supremacy (and that persisted with Latino immigration through today).
In a 1921 article for Good Housekeeping magazine, Vice President Calvin Coolidge warned against intermarriage among northern European “Nordics” and others: “Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.” In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act codified this policy, at the expense of Slavs, Jews, Italians and others.
The United States responded to the Cold War by passing in 1965 the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, a.k.a. the Hart-Celler Act. After that, non European immigration took off. But, as Lind writes, “no broadly shared vision of a common American community has taken hold to replace the older white nationalism in the U.S.—one that can encompass people of all races and backgrounds and that reflects the country’s ever-growing diversity.”
The nation is riven between white nativism and multiculturalism among the political left, which sees distinct national cultures. “In both cases, ancestry, race and ethnicity are seen as more important than a common American identity.”
Lind says we are trapped in a regressive formal classification of “races” in the U.S. Census: African-Americans, non-Hispanic whites, Latinos (or Hispanics), native Americans and Asian and Pacific Islanders. “These categories were settled upon by the federal government in the 1970s, and all except African-American, with its historical basis in America’s white supremacist caste system, are arbitrary to the point of absurdity.”
We need, Lind says, to bring back the concept of the “melting pot,” as presented by John Dewey, who referred to himself as “Pole-German-English-French-Spanish-Italian-Greek-Irish-Scandinavian-Bohemian-Jew—and so on.”
Stop promoting “assimilation,” which has always meant assimilation into white identity, and promote “amalgamation,” he says.
Remove the racial categories of the Census, base affirmation action on categories other than race to help the disadvantaged, Lind says.