March 08, 2003

Today's National Post Colum...

Today's National Post Column -- Race and War: Weird column, hard to summarize. Mentions, in order: Tim Blair, the Glendale Galleria, Sean Penn, Charlton Heston, Japanese action figures named "Ken," swarthy Armenians, then a bunch of stuff about how racism in America might have affected foreign policy.

Posted by at March 8, 2003 09:53 AM
Comments

Great sentence, Matt: "Few movements have been so lionized as the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and '60s, which has gained as many after-the-fact participants as the French Resistance."

So true. David Horowitz recently said Martin Luther King was a conservative, forgetting that conservatives called him a Communist then. Heh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 8, 2003 12:16 PM

Let me be the one to scream about "multiculturalists" and corporate pluralism.

I recently had a brief but very annoying chat with a young, English-speaking, Russian-looking and -accented Armenian lady at a store. She wants to preserve Armenian culture, get the genocide recognized, etc. Which are good things.

However, I also asked her whether she was going to assimilate and become American as well. She responded in the negative: "do you know how many different ethnic groups there are the in U.S.?" "just because I live here doesn't mean I'm going to become an American." "I'm just here for an education." I resisted the urge to say what I wanted to say due to the fact that it might just be a stage and that there might have been a misunderstanding over the words "assimilate" and "melting pot."

In any case, I don't think just living here is enough, and I think we should be a bit more careful about who we invite into the U.S.

Posted by: Lonewacko at March 8, 2003 12:49 PM

Michael -- Thanks.

Lonewacko -- I have a hunch, and it's only that, that those who don't assimilate (mainly, learn the language) are penalized pretty heavily in their paychecks, and so eventually end up choosing to swim, rather than sink in anti-assimilationism. As for being "careful" ... well, this will be the topic of the long-delayed immigration column, which might appear two Saturdays from now.

An interesting point that I only hinted at in this column, because I don't write so good: I firmly believe that the distorting quality of racism/tribalism in America -- whether it be the racism itself, or the hyper-sensitivity to it, creates its own sort of warping hysteria. Which is to say, it is really really hard for people to have, for example, a rational conversation about the public policy challenges of immigration -- the Left is more likely to distrust the Right's motives for bringing it up in the first place, and the Right is more likely to have xenophobic yahoos amongst its activist anti-immigration ranks ... everyone distrusts everyone else's motives, and before long the discussion has been ridiculously far removed from an actual public-policy debate. Which, then, makes the ennobled wise people like all of us (natch ... whatever "natch" means) even MORE likely to get all weird & red-faced about the public-policy issue ... which then makes us suspicious-looking to the outsiders. Dig? Therefore, all these sorts of proxy issues -- immigration, bilingual ed, criminal justice sentencing, welfare reform, affirmative action, broken windows, whatever -- become flash points all out of proportion to their actual importance & effect on American lives.

What's neat about my little B.S. analysis here is that there is no obvious prescription for re-rationalizing the conversation. My hunch is that such things can only be addressed on a Nixon-in-China basis: Clinton signs Welfare Reform while his party screams, Republican governors chip away at the Death Penalty while James Taranto sneers & calls them "self-appointed moralists" or whatever ... maybe the next (first?) California politician to sensibly tackle the challenges of immigration will be a Latino....

Posted by: Matt Welch at March 8, 2003 01:44 PM

Matt: "Natch" is slang for "naturally." I only know that because I looked it up a few weeks ago...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 8, 2003 02:52 PM

The lady I mentioned spoke English fairly well. I had to define "assimilate" for her, but other than a light Russian accent she seemed like a fairly advanced ESL speaker. If she chooses to stay here and get a higher-paying job than working at a drug store, I don't think she'll be penalized for failing to assimilate. I think the loser will be us.

For an example of someone who is choosing to be penalized, I spoke with a worker at a panaderia (hint: SF and LF) who stated "why should I learn English, I just work in this panaderia?" All other factors aside, I think her position is a bit less annoying. She's just here to work, and then she's going back home. The first example has an incorrect (at least IMHO) idea of what this whole thing is about.

An interesting project would be to make a video with a large number of short interviews with immigrants of various types and ethnicities, asking them what they're here for, what they think America's about, etc. While I realize first-generation immigrations are frequently different from second on, I think that would help illustrate the problems caused by multiculturalism and corporate pluralism.

For examples of attempts to play the race card, see Villaraigosa's answer here: http://www.mayorno.com/VillarMot010601.html , or see the comments here: http://www.polstate.com/archives/001452.html

Even if you don't like the source, the article 'Mexico’s Northern Strategy': http://www.amconmag.com/03_10_03/feature.html might prove quite enlightening to those who think that Viva Max! was just a comedy.

Posted by: Lonewacko at March 8, 2003 03:13 PM

Foreign and domestic critics of the US often treat the overtly racist, slave-owning origins of the country as a buried secret revealing our fundamental hypocrisy: "You speak of freedom and justice, but it's empty talk, since you enslaved people for hundreds of years! Why should we listen to anything you say?"

It was a valid argument in 1776. But one of the things I've always been proudest of about this country is that by and large we owned up to it. When slavery was abolished, when the Jim Crow laws were struck down a hundred years later, the strongest argument was always that the high-minded talk on duates at Berkeley -- a group which necessarily includes some of California's most academically successful Latino students -- bears this out. The Berkeley report found that many young Latinos, having grown up assimilated in predominantly white neighborhoods, lacked any sort of strong Chicano/Latino identity before entering college. Berkeley changed that -- spurring a process of racialization and reawakening ethnic consciousness. Some Latino students described themselves as being ``born again'' as Chicanos, and finding themselves resentful over what they had lost of Mexican language and culture. Such remorse among third- and fourth-generation immigrants has ample precedent in American history, and need not have political implications. What is new is that such feelings are reinforced and given a political twist by organizations like MEChA, by Chicano Studies departments, by the intrusions of Mexican politicians, and above all by an unceasing flow of new immigrants."

Posted by: Lonewacko at March 10, 2003 04:27 PM
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deal with (obviously, for some groups it is worse than others).

California, in particular, has a long history of persecuting every immigrant class, including the Okies.

Of course, these days there does seem to be more of a militant "why should I learn English" attitude among some immigrants. But that is more a reflection, I think, of a political chattering class that tells immigrants -- you don't have to assimulate, you shouldn't assimulate, assimulation is evil, hang on to your culture -- to which some immigrants surely latch onto, telling themselves in part, "right, that's easier, so that appeals to me."

But still, the children can't resist the lure of the wider culture, and with no barriers of homesickness or difficulties in learning a new language as an adult, they assimulate.

Posted by: Howard Owens at March 10, 2003 12:49 PM

"But still, the children can't resist the lure of the wider culture, and with no barriers of homesickness or difficulties in learning a new language as an adult, they assimulate."

Until they take their first Ethnic Studies class:

http://www.nationalreview.com/31dec97/mcconnell123197.html

"A recent study of undergraduates at Berkeley -- a group which necessarily includes some of California's most academically successful Latino students -- bears this out. The Berkeley report found that many young Latinos, having grown up assimilated in predominantly white neighborhoods, lacked any sort of strong Chicano/Latino identity before entering college. Berkeley changed that -- spurring a process of racialization and reawakening ethnic consciousness. Some Latino students described themselves as being ``born again'' as Chicanos, and finding themselves resentful over what they had lost of Mexican language and culture. Such remorse among third- and fourth-generation immigrants has ample precedent in American history, and need not have political implications. What is new is that such feelings are reinforced and given a political twist by organizations like MEChA, by Chicano Studies departments, by the intrusions of Mexican politicians, and above all by an unceasing flow of new immigrants."

Posted by: Lonewacko at March 10, 2003 04:27 PM
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