An Old American Comments on Sailer vs. Barone
June 25, 2001, 05:00 AM
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From:  Name Withheld 

Everything Mr. Sailer says about Michael Barone`s book is true, but I think there are more important flaws in Barone`s reasoning than his simplistic comparisons of ethnic groups and his neglect of racial differences.   Even if race did not exist and Barone was right about every cultural parallel he identifies, his conclusions about assimilation would still be ludicrous.  Of the myriad reasons, let me summarize three.

1.  Although many of the Irish and Italians and even East European Jews were poorly skilled and educated when they arrived, so were most Americans in those days.  Except for a one-generation language handicap in the case of Jews and Italians, these European immigrants were not that far behind the native-born agricultural and industrial classes to which most Americans belonged.  The movement of the Irish, Italians, and Jews up the socioeconomic ladder in the past century reflected not just the progress of immigrants but the progress of the whole American people.  In contrast, too many of today`s immigrants arrive with skills, education, and cultural attitudes that place them so far behind the middle classes that constitute today`s majority that the likelihood of their catching up in the 80 years that Barone attributes to earlier immigrant groups is zero unless the rest of the country stands still. 

2.  The Irish and Italians had a great advantage not enjoyed by the Mexicans and Central Americans.  During the 19th century Irish Catholicism experienced an extraordinary institutional revival that quickly extended into the Irish-American communities.  By the turn of the century, Irish and Italian peasants and artisans were received on the East Coast by triumphant armies of bishops, priests, and nuns who dedicated their lives above all to raising the moral, cultural, and education levels of immigrant children.  Anyone who attended parochial schools before the collapse of institutional Catholicism in the 1960s knows they experienced something special—there was nothing quite like it before and there is no sign that anything like it will be seen again.  The Irish and Italians had Bishop Sheen and Sister Mary Angelus to lift them up.  The institutions having equivalent influence on today`s Hispanic newcomers are Hollywood and the public teachers unions.  No contest.

3.  The foregoing flaws and any others that might be mentioned are next to nothing when laid against the Mother of All Flaws in the Barone analysis, namely his failure to consider the numbers.  Jews today are less than three percent of the population, Italians probably less than five percent.  Are we to be surprised that after 80 years the fourth and fifth generations have assimilated into the other 95% of the population?  Although Hispanics began to arrive in large numbers nearly 80 years after the Jews and Italians, they are already well over 10% of the population and, if Barone has his way, they will hurtle unimpeded towards majority status sometime in the next century.  After mass immigration was stopped in the 1920s, "immigrants" quickly became a minority in the Jewish, Italian, and other recently established communities.  Under Baronist immigration policies, Hispanic immigrants and their numerous children will outnumber longer-established Hispanics for as far as the eye can see.  Whether Hispanics will take the same 80 years as Italians or Jews to assimilate is irrelevant.  In 80 years the descendants of those who arrived today will be vastly outnumbered by those who came after.  Moreover, owing to Third-World immigration and the very high birth rate of Hispanic immigrants, the non-Hispanic white population is diving towards minority status.  There is nothing into which today`s "New Americans" might aspire to assimilate comparable to the ocean of self-confident White Protestants in which our Irish, Italian, and Jewish forbearers were immersed.

June 25, 2001