A Melting Pot

I have a co-worker who’s Italian maternal grandparents came to the United States during the Great Migration.  Her dad’s family is Irish, and her Anglo-Saxon last name has a nice laconic ring to it.  She is blond.  Her boyfriend is half-Philippino/half-Swedish.

So what do they consider themselves?  Latin.  My co-worker was a member of Mexican groups on campus; she often wears Mexican peasant blouses and Day of the Dead purses.  She visited Mexico numerous times, marches in illegal immigrant demonstrations and even claims to speak English with Spanish accent.  I didn’t catch her alleged accent, but, she says, she grew up around Mexicans, so that’s where she picked it up.  She grew up in San Francisco, which, she says, only shows that everyone has an accent.*

This little anecdote should give a pose those of us who still believe that becoming an American is something that naturally happens to those coming into this country because our culture naturally draws immigrants in.  Really, why wouldn’t everyone want to be an American?

May be because we are too busy explaining immigrants and citizens alike that other cultures are so much more interesting, that there is no such thing as American culture, and that American culture is so vanilla anyway.

High intermarriage rates of Mexicans in this country are often believed to be the proof of assimilationist tendencies in the community.  But such rates only signal assimilation if, as was the case with Italians or Poles in the early 20th century, the offsprings produced in such unions consider themselves Americans especially un-hyphenated Americans.

What this all tells me is that our country needs a program for an American identity before it’s too late.

*If everyone has an accent, what is a meaning of having an accent?


December 10, 2006. Random thoughts.

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