Every day perceptions when immigrants arrive in large numbers

Author Tomas Jimenez conducted 179 interviews in the racially diverse of three Silicon Valley cities. One used to be largely African-American and now is largely Hispanic. The others have had big influxes of South and East Asian immigrants. The author studied the longtime “established” residents’ response to newcomers.

Over time, immigrant-driven diversity “becomes more kaleidoscopic as newcomers assimilate, leading established individuals to recognize diversity within racial groups and to define belonging in nonracial terms.”
There are two markers to closer interpersonal relations: speaking English well and lengthy residence in the neighborhood. Legal status of the immigrant population was also a key factor in the established residents’ perception of immigrants overall.

“There was a resounding chorus across the interview sample that the English language was the cultural nucleus of American identity. While no respondent believed that immigrants should shed their mother tongue, all described speaking English as the behavioral essence of Americanness. And yet they also had difficulty pointing to American cultural displays, aside from speaking English. As a White, male college student from Berryessa reported:

‘Our [American] culture is the absence of culture. They have a distinct culture and every other country has a very distinct culture except us, because we’re a blend of all the cultures…. It definitely helps if [immigrants] speak fluent English with as little accent as possible.’ “

Jiménez concludes: “But if the comments of those interviewed in Silicon Valley are any indication, they also feel a sense of appreciation for the new opportunities and vibrant cultural admixture that emerge from these changes. Over time, and across generations, these shifts will give way to a sense of normal that, in hindsight, will have changed dramatically.”

The source is here.


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