Roger Clegg On Assimilation: Is 400 Years Too Long?
November 20, 2007, 03:31 PM
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Roger Clegg has something controversial to say here—if Americans are asking immigrants to assimilate to American norms like not having children out of wedlock, graduating from high school, and respecting women, shouldn't Americans themselves assimilate to these norms? The group he's highlighting is African-American (I told you it was controversial) and his point is that African-Americans aren't living up to what assimilationists hope that Mexican immigrants will.

In the past I’ve listed ten crucial aspects of assimilation. There’s nothing wrong with ethnic pride, and we don’t all have to eat the same foods or listen to the same music, but we do all need to: (1) speak English, (2) respect other racial and ethnic groups, and, conversely, (3) not ask for special preferences for our own racial or ethnic group. We must also not (4) bear historical grudges, (5) believe that working and studying hard are “acting white,” or (6) have children out of wedlock. On the hand, we should (7) follow the law, (8) be reasonably polite to one another, and (9) respect women. Finally (10), we should all be patriotic, proud Americans.How are we—those of us already here—doing? Well, we are doing pretty well in speaking English, but there is room for improvement in all the other categories.

In elaborating a little on this, I’d like to cite and endorse a new documentary DVD, What Black Men Think. In doing so, I’m not suggesting that all or only African Americans are failing to do what assimilation into the larger American culture requires, because there are plenty of African Americans who aren’t failing—that’s actually also one of the points of the DVD—and plenty in other groups who are. But enough African Americans are failing in enough of the categories that it is cause for concern, and illustrates that the need for some common social ground is something we ought to demand not only of immigrants.

Do rappers, for example, show proper respect for women? Is it a problem that 7 out of 10 African Americans are born out of wedlock (the 1 out of 4 rate for non-Hispanic whites is lamentable, too, I hasten to add)?[Discriminations: What About The Assimilation Of Citizens?]

Of course, the problem here is that African-Americans have been in America for four hundred years, and the process of assimilation seems to be working in reverse. And there's another reason to worry about immigration from Mexico—Spanish has been the official language of Mexico since the Conquistadors conquered the place five hundred years ago, but many recent immigrants are Mixtec Indians who have not, in all that time learned Spanish.