There are three main cultural models in relation to immigration. This includes assimilation, pluralism and multiculturalism. Firstly, assimilation entails the process whereby formerly distinct and separate groups share a common culture and come together socially. This results in a decrease, in the differences in the social and cultural aspects. Normally, assimilation requires that all cultural groups contribute equally in formation of the new, united society. However, a one-sided process of Anglo-conformity has characterized assimilation in the U.S.A. Moreover, the major variations of assimilation occurred due to religion, social class and gender.
The traditional perspective of assimilation is shaped by different concepts and theories. One of such theories is the Robert Park’s theory that states that before a successful assimilation process can occur between different cultural groups, there first has to be conflict and competition amongst them. Moreover, the Milton Gordon theory of assimilation seeks to distinguish between the cultural aspects that include language and beliefs, and structural components of assimilation that involves social relations and organizations. Human Capital theory, on the other hand, explains assimilation by an individual because of his personal characteristics (Rodriguez, 2007).
Pluralism, on the other hand, is a cultural model under which groups maintain their individual identities. This leads to cultural and social differences persisting. There are various forms of pluralism. In structural pluralism, various groups occupy different locations in the social structure, but the cultural differences are minimal. Intermediaries’ minority in pluralism involves groups relying on retail shops spread with a large area while the enclave minority involves a group establishing its own neighborhood and relying on a set of interconnected business (Hing, 1997).
According to the theoretical perspectives of pluralism, Kallen (1915) argued that one should not give up their culture and identity in order to attain American citizenship. On the other hand, Glazer and Moynihan (1970) analyzed how the minority white ethnic groups in New York lived in their ethnic cocoons while Steinberg (1981) and Gallegher (2001) identified ethnicity as being a major part of the society especially within white ethnic groups, mainly due to the competition of valued commodities (Rodriguez,2007)
Multiculturalism is another cultural model that entails ethnic diversity in a community. In U.S.A, it started as a pragmatism movement in the end of the nineteenth century before turning into political and cultural pluralism in the early twentieth century. The followers of this model see it as a fairer system that adapts better to social issues. Moreover, they argue that culture should change with time and as such, their ethnic or religious background should not describe one’s identity. However, its critiques argue that it may result in the host nation’s original culture being eroded.
Certain minority groups in U.S.A have found it hard to fully assimilate into the American society, hence leading to their acculturation. In acculturation, the group stays as an intact society although they adopt the culture of the majority group to some extent. For example, the Hispanic Americans have failed to assimilate into the American society mainly due to language barriers and their distinct cultural values. This minority group is also not willing to be assimilated as they fight to maintain their cultural values and language (Lassman, 2011).
The Americans with African ancestry, which includes the African Americans, have also struggled with assimilation into the American society. Unlike the Hispanic Americans who were not willing to abandon their culture, the African Americans were disassociated from their culture by force during the era of slave trade. Their journey to assimilation was rough mainly due to ethnocentrism from the Anglo-Americans. The white Americans saw the people of the black race as inferior and a group that can never become civilized.
Just like the Hispanic Americans, the Asian Americans have preferred acculturation as opposed to assimilation into the American society. Most Americans with an Asian ancestry prefer being full citizens in America without losing their culture, hence their acculturation. However, Native Americans underwent forced assimilation into the American society by the European. The Native Americans were forced to renounce their initial way of life and adopt Christianity. The Native Americans who have an Indian descent were forced to become American citizens (Modood, 2007).
Multiculturalism is the most prevalent immigration cultural model in the American society. The American society is characterized by ethnic diversity with people from Asian, Mexican and African descent among others being part of the larger community. The ethnic diversity in U.S.A has lead to loss of the nation’s original culture. Despite the integration of various cultures in the American society, various minority groups have access to certain services based on aspects such as religion or ethnic backgrounds (Modood, 2007).
Regardless of the significant decrease of ethnicity and racism in the American society over the years, there are still certain privileges awarded to certain racial groups. For example, the “whites” in the American frameset are placed in a higher social class in certain parts of the country. Moreover, certain facilities such as quality educational, medical and housing amenities are accorded to the white Americans since some still consider their race as superior to the rest.
Hing, B. O. (1997). To be an American: Cultural pluralism and the rhetoric of assimilation. New York: New York University Press.
Lassman, P. (2011). Pluralism. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Modood, T. (2007). Multiculturalism. Cambridge: Polity.
Rodriguez, G. (2007). Mongrels, bastards, orphans, and vagabonds: Mexican immigration and the future of race in America. New York: Pantheon Books.
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