Is The American "Melting Pot" Unique?

I live and work with a lot of people who are either 1st or 2nd generation immigrants-from countries like Brazil, Italy, Canada, India, etc. all of these people seem to be well on the way to assimilation-the Indian Ph.D.'s kids I know are into american football, baseball, and the Brazilian’s kids are all doing well in HS. So, it seems that they are quite happy to be Americans. There has been talk of certain ethnic groups (muslims) who resist this process, so I wonder if the USA is unique (historically). Take the great cities of the Ottoman/Turkish empire-you had greek and armenian communities that allays stayed Grekk and Armenian-for generation after generation-and never considered themselves citizens of the Ottoman Empire.
I personally see a lot of value in cultural assimilation, and a lot of danger NOT having assimilation. So, from a historical perspective, is the “Americanization” of immigrant a unique thing?

Not totally, but considerably. In a lot of places, immigration is either much smaller, or if it is large, the immigrants band together and don’t assiminlate much or at all. Turks in Germany are a bit more assiminlated than many other Muslims in Europe, but they still have a Turkish-German identity but are not really part of the “normal flow of life.”

America is more unusual in the general emphasis on it and the fact that anyone can become American, simply by choosing to do so. They don’t have to totally give up their culture (because we accept new things from them as well), but you can’t just become “German” by going and living there. It’s an ethnicity and a culture and a history. You don’t become “Japanese” by choosing to live in Japan. But with America you can do so.

Nitpick: it’s ‘teh’.


Wow, I was going to make a post asking a similar question, but got beaten to it! :mad:

:smiley: Naw, that’s alright. I guess I’ll post what I was going to post in here.

Going to school throughout the 80’s, the message kept getting pushed that America is a melting pot. But In the 90’s, I noticed a lot of groups that don’t really assimilate, if at all. There are plenty of Mexicans who move here who don’t learn, and don’t care about learning English. Lots of cities have a Chinatown, and there are neighborhoods that are predominantly made up of Italians, or Jews, or, whatever.

There are also some blacks in this country who criticize being “color blind” as seeing and treating everybody as white.

By the way, I am not making any judgments in this thread, I am simply making observations.

But I have been curious lately as to if the melting pot description is accurate, or just a myth.

First generation immigrants don’t always assimilate well or at all, and some Hispanics particularly intend to leave or woul if they could afford it. It’s the second generation where things realy change. One more and they move to Milwaukee, get pissed about Affirmative Action, and join the Republican Party.

Do I detect a note of sarcasm?:smiley:

There have never been any other countries called “America,” so yes.

But seriously, of course not. Never heard of Canada?

I don’t even know what street Canada is on.

Main Street.

No, it isn’t. Britain (and I suspect a load of other EU countries) also has a similar “melting pot”. A massive former empire as well as EU membership helps things considerably.

Nah, I vote Republican. :smiley:

Just from casual observation, it seems that the United States is more ethnically diverse in terms of high government officials that many other nations. You may not agree with their policies, but the current administration includes many black and Hispanic people. Lots of other big countries seem to be led by persons of the locally predominant race…at least to cursory examination.

Actually, that’s something I forgot to mention in my previous post. In the 80’s, I kept hearing about the melting pot, but starting somewhere in the 90’s, I noticed a big push for diversity. It seems to me that the two kind of opposite of each other.

Sort of depends how you define your terms. The current French President for instance is Nicolas Sarkozy - clearly not a ‘French’ name.

In fact, here in France the US ‘melting pot’ system is often contrasted with the French ‘assimilation’ system, whereby immigrants have been strongly encouraged to abandon their previous cultural identities and languages and rapidly conform to the mainstream. An example, France had a massive influx of Italian immigration around the same time as the US, but you don’t find much by way of ‘little italy’ neighborhoods, you don’t get the ‘italo-french’ stereotype in humor etc. The assimilation is already close to 100%.

With current immigration we seem to be closer to the US situation. There are Chinese neighborhoods springing up all over, that seem to live largely outside the mainstream. OTOH within one generation I would expect to see them dissolve into the population the same way previous immigrant waves mostly have.

North African immigrants from the 50s and 60s are to some degree an exception in this regard, they tend to stay in touch with their country of origin, some taught their language to their children, they generally gave their children Arab first names etc. In contrast, the children of the Vietnamese, Cambodian, Yugoslavian etc immigrants from the same period typically have ‘French’ first names, often very ‘French’ names.

Brazil is quite the melting pot, I suspect.

I think the melting pot image of the US is a relatively recent (and maybe fleeting) phenomenon.
When my dad was growing up in Small Town America in the 30’s there were still ethnic neighborhoods. This is steel and coal country and while people of Italian, Polish, Lebanese, and British Isles ancestry worked together, they all went home to their own neighborhoods. I’ve read that WWII changed a lot of that by throwing so many different groups together in dire circumstances where they saw that the other guys were capable of the same strengths and weaknesses they saw in themselves.
Some of that seperation persisted through the 60’s here. My dad considered it interacial dating when I had an Italian girlfriend, lol. When I was in high school one town had a very large track meet that drew so many runners that people opened their homes to them for the weekend. The local paper ran a column about how great it was that “it doesn’t matter if a kid’s name ends in an “o” or “ski”, they’re all welcome”!
Kinda made me say “huh?”

Regarding Germany - yes, there was a huge influx in Turks that moved to Germany (with open arms) back the early 70’s when there was a shortage of labor. I believe at one time, based upon the large Turkish migration, Berlin was literally the fourth largest Turkish city! Currently there are two more generations of Turks living in Germany - some who not only have never been to Turkey, but don’t even speak Turkish and only speak German.

Still, many Germans still consider the Turkish population transients and they are often blamed as the cause of all social ills. This has changed somewhat as now there are so many other former East Bloc residents flooding into the country (Russians, Romanians, Poles, etc.) that the heat has somewhat dropped from blaming only the Turks for all the problems.

So, although on paper Germany might look like a melting pot, many Germans are none to thrilled with the idea and liberal immigration laws from the past have been changed.

I think there are a number of countries with well-melted “pots” and they mostly have three characteristics:

[li]Majority ethnicity of the country has not lived there for more than a few hundred years (so, the nations of the Americas and Oceania, basically)[/li][li]High immigration, from a diverse range of backgrounds[/li][li]Immigration has been high for a number of generations[/li][/ul]

The first characteristic makes it hard for racists to get traction (although obviously they do exist, like anywhere) because “why don’t your sort just get back on the boat and go home?” can always be logically followed by “well, why don’t YOUR sort?”.

The second characteristic makes it harder for immigrant populations to “ghettoize” - the fewer fellow-immigrants from your own country there are about, the more you are pushed to interact with the surrounding culture.

The third characteristic gives immigrants and native-born citizens a model for assimilation as part of the normal working of society. So for instance in Australia the difference between English and Irish was a Big Thing back in my grandparents’ generation. By the 60’s nobody gave a toss - by then it was the “wogs” (Greek and Italian) who were the “problem”. Come the 80’s and 90’s the term “wog” was mild enough that people would simply use it as an inoffensive joke about themselves - the focus of racism had shifted to Asians, especially Vietnamese. These days it seems to be Somalis that are targetted for hand-wringing … in another twenty years it will be someone different (though we’re starting to run out of ethnic groups who haven’t had their turn in the barrel - I guess if we have a wave of middle-eastern immigration in the next decade or so that would do it)

New Zealand is most definitely a melting pot.

Whalers and Sealers often married into local Maori tribes, long before any official settlement started.

There have been waves of immigration since the 1800’s - even now we’re having a smallish surge in African immigrants, this is after the wave of Indians who were sick of the persecution they still faced after generations in Fiji.

Back in the 50’s there was a bias towards European migrants, which allowed my mother to come over with her family (my granddad was a desperately needed engineer). My Dad’s family came over a few generations earlier, for the gold rush. A friend has moved here from England, my boss is from Germany. A member of my writer’s group makes a big deal about how their family came over on some of the earliest settler ships, another arrived with a group fleeing from the devastation of WW2.

I worked with a woman whose father had emigrated from India during the late forties - because he was not Eurpoean, his wife was unable to join him here until the law was changed (about 1970). He started late, but still managed four kids. When I was in high school there was a big crack-down on illegal migrants from Samoa, some are still waiting to be declared legal.

There was a bit of a backlash in the 90’s about Asian immigrants, but we’ve had people arriving from that part of the globe at least as long as my family’s been here - many Chinese also came here for the gold rush.

And another friend of mine did a comedy routine where she reckoned Auckland was the only place in the world where a Dally (Dalmation) like her could buy sushi from an Egyptian wearing a lavalava.

This(video - warning 80’s clothes!) could well have been our national anthem.

As mentioned above, the first generation tend to keep strong ties to their own culture, but their kids are all kiwi kids.

Any Aussies going to chime in? They’ve a rich tapestry as well. (Thanks Aspidistra!)

Are you kidding?
Most american countries qualify as melting pots, specially Argentina and Uruguay.