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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

July 31, 2007

Written by C.N.

New Forms of Assimilation

As a sociologist who studies immigration and assimilation, I have written before about how, in the context of today’s globalized and transnational 21st century American society, recent immigrants and the children of recent immigrants are blending old and new to create new forms of assimilation that incorporate elements from both mainstream American society and their ancestral culture. With that in mind, New American Media profiles this process among Latinos:

Latinos are assimilating, but in their own way, keeping much of their identity. Tamales at Christmas. Turkey and menudo at Thanksgiving. English at work and Spanish at home. Dual loyalties to the San Diego Chargers and Guadalajara Chivas. The Fourth of July. Cinco de Mayo. . . .

The big difference between European and Latino immigrants, according to Ramos and some sociologists, is that Hispanics live next to their countries of origin, allowing them to maintain ties with their family, culture and language. In addition, there exists today an extensive network of Spanish-language media. . . .

Defining assimilation is as complex as reforming immigration laws. Can you speak Spanish and be assimilated? Do you have to like hamburgers more than grilled steak tacos? When can you say you have achieved assimilation? . . . Richard Rodríguez, a writer who has published various books about the adaptation of Latinos to U.S. culture, said that assimilating is absorbing the individuality of the United States, and that this is precisely what Hispanics are doing.

This is exactly the type of “new assimilation” that I’ve been writing about, whether it happens to Latinos, Asians, or whoever else. As American society moves forward into the 21st century, it is inevitably becoming much more diverse — demographically and culturally. The practical reality is that non-White groups increasingly make up an every-increasing share of the U.S. population and that this demographic change is certain to bring cultural changes.

However and unfortunately, there are many Americans who bemoan and lament these changes and will insist that you can only be a “real” American if you are born in the U.S. and whose ancestors are White and came from Europe. Ultimately, there’s not much I or anybody else can do to change their mind or to encourage them to broaden their definition of who qualifies to be an “American.”

In the end, reactionaries like that are likely to be replaced by young Americans who are indeed forging their own sense of identity — one that includes being both Mexican, Chinese, or whatever and being American at the same time.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "New Forms of Assimilation" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/07/new-forms-of-assimilation/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=461