A Response to Comments About the Assimilation of Immigrants

immgnts-respbymp1As many of you know, I seldom respond to comments made by readers to my blog. The reason for this is that I feel it is appropriate to leave the comments section as your opportunity to express your individual thoughts about a topic I write about. Some of you, whether you agree or disagree with me, have posted some interesting and well thought out comments, some of which could be blog posts by themselves. I appreciate the well thought out and well-articulated comments. You may have also noticed that some readers have taken me up on my offer to publish guest and counterpoint editorials on my blog. I strongly believe that all voices should be heard because it is the only way we can all make our own decisions about the topics that I tend to write about.

That said, today, I want to address some of the comments made about my assimilation essay as well as respond to emails sent directly to me. I am also going to share an email, with the author’s permission, that brings up another interesting dimension to the discussion.

First, let me address three prevailing themes in the comments about my essay.

English Is the Real Issue to the Assimilation Argument

Although not expressed directly, after reading the comments and the emails sent to me, I think I finally understand that the underlining issue about the assimilation argument is the notion that English should be the common language of the country. The overwhelming assimilation demand has little to do with cultural assimilation and more to do with speaking English.

Part of the problem of debating the assimilation of immigrants is that the word “assimilation” is wrongly used. For most, the argument is about having immigrants learn English. Most of the proponents are unlikely to admit to this, but the real fear is that Spanish is dominating English in some communities, and that makes monolingual English speakers apprehensive, or outright fearful.

I’ve seen this phenomenon before in the midst of monolingual speakers, whether English, Spanish or any other language. When one or more monolinguals are in the midst of multilinguals and a foreign language is spoken, the immediate fear of the monolinguals is that they are the topic of the discussion. The discussion might be as simple as “how was your day,” but in the eyes of the monolinguals, fear makes them think that the discussion is disparaging to them.

All of us have experienced this when we see someone whispering to someone else, we may not know what the discussion is about, but because of the whispering we naturally assume it is about us. It is a fear that is common among all of us.

We need to understand this in order to have a productive debate about assimilation. Those of us that believe that immigrants should not be required to assimilate and those that believe that immigrants should assimilate need to understand this about the debate. That is that for the most part, it is not about cultural assimilation but rather about a common language.

English, as the common language, is the crux for the majority of those advocating assimilation. Understanding this brings clarity to issue and explains the apparent dichotomy that exists among the proponents of assimilation. It is about language and not about the color of the skin.

The word Anglo-Saxon versus White

I have been criticized before for using the term “Anglo-Saxon”. Some of the readers have argued that I misuse the term and others have stated that I do not know what it means. It comes down to “racism.” The assimilation debate is not about racism but rather about culture, mannerisms and language. The use of “racist” is a knee-jerk reaction to the debate about immigration and assimilation.

The thing about the issue is that assimilating immigrants is not a “white” versus “brown” debate, as most assume. It is not about race in the classical sense. The concept of race has evolved with our understanding of science, especially DNA. Race is often confused with nationality or ethnicity. There is no “brown” race. There are four major races of humans. They are Australoid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. There are also many sub-races that increases along with our knowledge.

The Caucasoid, or “Caucasian” race is made up of what is commonly misconstrued as the “white man”. The Caucasoid includes the majority of the Hispanics, of which Mexicans are a significant part of. Just like there is no “white” race there is no “brown” race either. We are all Caucasian.

Although some have argued that my essay is racist against “whites,” the fact is that I cannot be racist against my own race. Others argue that proponents of assimilating immigrants are based on racist’s views. That is not true as well.

However, race tends to be confused and misused with ethnicity. This creates a problem for me. The debate is not about “race” but about “ethnicity”. To my knowledge, and granted I grew up in a foreign country, there is no “white” ethnicity. However, there is a culture that can be described as “white” and this has nothing to do with skin color. It has everything to do with culture; attitude, food, dress, language, mannerisms, and yes, even ethical standards.

In other words, culture is about the way we process the world around us. It is our perception of how we should live. It is not about the color of the skin.

Although I will be the first to admit that using the word “Anglo-Saxon Protestant” to describe the minority driving the debate about requiring immigrants to assimilate may be misguided, I have not found a better way to describe that culture. The problem is that culture, or the traits that I am attempting to describe are neither “white” nor “brown,” but rather a way of life and thought.

You may have noticed that I did not use the word “white” in my essay. I did so purposely because there are many Hispanics that believe that immigrants should be required to assimilate. Demanding that immigrants assimilate is not racist. Neither is demanding that immigrants should not be required to assimilate.

To have a clear discussion about immigrants assimilating, we need to move away from the notion that it is a racist issue. It is an issue about culture, and especially language.

Why I live in the United States

Invariably the first question that I get when I criticize the United States is why do I live here. That is normally followed by the demand that I move back to Mexico, “if you like it so much.”

I criticize Mexico for its many faults, among them is the “defeatist” attitude that we carry within ourselves. As I have written before, the United States was born from the notion that people should always look forward and never back. It is a psyche of overcoming obstacles to reach the goals. We, Mexicans, tend to focus too much on our past, it is an anchor that holds us back by delving too much on why we can’t succeed instead of striving to overcome the obstacles in front of us. (All credit is due to Octavio Paz for making me understand this via his writings.)

This is the reality that many Mexicans refuse to understand and thus never look to rectify. It is also the reason that US citizens tend to be viewed as arrogant because you have to be sure of yourself to perceiver through adversity.

But, just like there is a psyche problem with Mexicans, along with other issues, there is also much that we, Mexicans, should be proud of. Our defeatist attitude not only allows others to define us through the news media and through mistaken beliefs about our culture, but it also makes many Mexicans believe that everything about Mexico is wrong.

That is the main reason I choose to write about Mexico and the geopolitical issues on the border. Although it may seem that I focus too much on the good about Mexico, it does not mean that I am not cognizant of the problems. However, there is much more negative press about Mexico than there is good press and thus I am in the minority. I see no reason to focus on what is already the narrative and instead I choose to propose a new, more accurate, narrative.

Obviously, that does not answer the question of why I live in the United States. I do not have an answer that will satisfy many of you.

The best I can come with is that it is a circumstance of life.

I never intended to live in the US, as a matter of fact I have made the decision not to become a US citizen. Many of the decisions that led me to where I am today were not made by me, but rather by circumstances, some beyond my control and others by decisions, good or bad, that I have made over my lifetime.

You see, I’ve been living my life. As such, what my dreams were or my life’s path was, has changed over the years. Thirty years ago I would have told you that I would not consider making my life in the US. But then again, thirty years ago, I did not have the responsibility of others. I also did not anticipate having a business that initially crossed the border physically and now does it virtually.

The fact is that my business is virtual and thus I can operate it out of anywhere, as long as there is an Internet connection. Thus, for me, living in Mexico, the US or most anywhere in the world is not an issue. I have lived in several countries and cities over the years. I speak three languages and I am culturally open to most cultures, except the Middle East, which is completely alien to me and something I do not see myself being comfortable in.

The simple answer is that my flexibility to live anywhere gives me the luxury of letting my spouse decide where she is comfortable. Hence, the reason I now live in Orlando.

I realize that is not the answer some of you are hoping but it is the reality. As a matter of fact, I believe on national sovereignty, cultural identity and national borders but I also believe that it is our destiny, as humans, to explore beyond our borders. To expand our horizons.

I believe in fair immigration policies that focus on securing the citizens of each country against evil doers while encouraging the free-flow of people across borders for the prosperity of all. Yes, to many of you that means “open borders”.

Capitalism is about making the best product for the lowest possible price. It is the nature of capitalism to allow economic immigration. To think otherwise ignores this basic reality. People should be allowed to live where they want, as long as they are willing to make the best of their lives without taking from the others. Yes, that means that a country’s benefits should not be available to immigrants. I have no problem with that. Like you, I pay taxes and resent paying for the irresponsibility of others. Obama Care is a prime example of this. However, taxes are often mistaken as an immigration problem. I’ll delve more into that in future posts.

At the same time, immigrants, whether economic or for other reasons, should be treated fairly by encouraging immigration and keeping those intent on criminality out. This is true for Mexico as well. Keeping central Americans out for economic reasons is wrong.

The El Paso Thanksgiving Movement

The comment I made about El Paso’s hijacking of the Thanksgiving iconography did not sit well with many of you, although some of you applauded me for stating something some knew but few were willing to point out. However, I did receive an interesting comment from Jesse Garcia. Jesse pointed out something that I believe is important. Rather than paraphrase it, and with his permission, I am sharing his comments for your consideration.

“You made a very interesting point about how El Paso’s attempt to hijack Thanksgiving is motivated by an identity crisis, but I disagree. Thanksgiving is white supremacy’s method of acknowledging that indigenous nations did impact the development of the United States, but in a racist way that oversimplifies and de-emphasizes the significant differences between those same nations by lumping them together as ‘part of America’, similar to ‘E Pluribus Unum’. This misguided attempt to hijack Thanksgiving prove the city’s ‘American-ness’ is not an identity crisis. It is racial self-hatred.

Self-hatred is instilled is by telling people of color they belong to vast, homogenous groups that are inferior. Rather try to uncover their roots, we distance ourselves from the shallow and generic blob of ‘otherness’. A perfect example is Black people’s lack of desire to learn about Africa. The majority of African Americans cannot name nations, ethnic groups, languages, or even food from Africa because they were manipulated into thinking it was all the same – a giant, shadowy, chaotic mess of violence, backwardness, and poverty – something they didn’t want to be a part of. Similarly, outside of these areas where Spanish is the major language, everyone refers to Latinos as ‘Spanish’. I’m from Virginia, in a majority Black area, and am of mixed Black and Mexican heritage. No one ever called anyone Mexican or Puerto Rican or Dominican. They were just like ‘Jesse’s Half-Spanish.’

So you see, it’s not merely an identity crisis. When people are trying to prove they’re sufficiently American they’re truly trying to gain honorary acceptance from White people. Self-hatred is central to the Thanksgiving narrative. The myth of Native Americans who manifested White Christian ideals of friendship, sacrifice, and selfless gratitude is a way to subtly hint that we should approach White people the way the mythical Indians of the Thanksgiving story did— extending a hand of friendship. El Paso’s desire to hijack this wasn’t because we have a lot of WASP’s. It was because all of the Mexicans who tried to hijack Thanksgiving were too afraid to be seen as ‘Spanish’ by WASP’s.”

I believe that some you will find his comments as interesting as I did.

In regards to commenting on my blog, I would like to remind you that all of your comments are more than welcome. Please keep them coming. However, I ask that you keep your comments centered on the topic and away from the personalities making the comments. If you feel that you must make personal comments to make your point, I ask that you direct them at me instead of the individuals posting comments on my blog. After all, I am the instigator that causes the reactions by the topics I choose to write about and thus it is me that you should direct your ire towards.

In closing, I would like to again extend an invitation to all of you to submit editorials for me to consider for future posts on the blog. I also encourage you to continue expressing yourselves freely, whether you agree or disagree with me. It is your comments that make my blog successful.

8 thoughts on “A Response to Comments About the Assimilation of Immigrants

  1. Love the open discussion.

    When you use fear as to a description of not understanding what being said, perhaps suspicion or annoyance would be better. Fear is way too strong.

    I’ve had others speak in languages I didn’t understand but the speakers excused themselves and explained it was business or personal. So I was ok. Courtesy is the key, not the refusal to learn another language.

    Taxes are an issue because “everybody” wants to come here and until they get on the feet, they need social services. Some never bother to get ahead and remain on the dole. Biggest complain I hear that taxpayers apply for services and have difficulties with getting that help. On the other hand, some enter this country and the agencies shower them with benefits. At least that’s the perception.

    Anyway, I believe we’ve have reached a better understanding.

  2. So, you are embracing the cultural Marxist narrative, Martin, with Garcia’s comments. Assimilation is sucking up to white people. He misses the whole idea of America and that does worry Americans about immigrants, especially Mexicans and muslims, whose cultural focus seems to be fixated on the past and it’s grievances or its mandates to make the future like the past.

  3. Assimilation is the acceptance with pride, gratitude, and eagerness the values and norms of a society in which they live in while still maintaining their cultural identity. During the great migration of Europeans to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, one major goal of these refugees was the eagerness to learn English and to accept the social norms and to assimilate. In other words, to become Americans! That is a major reason they and their descendants became very successful and patriotic, unlike the current crop.

    1. That was certainly my grandparents goal fleeing the Bolsheviks in Kiev – the Big Pierogi – but I’m glad they kept the real pierogis, kielbasa, and easter eggs. Just like I’m glad there is tequila and burritos here to enjoy.

      Oh, I’m sorry, Jesse, for the microaggression of cultural appropriation
      there. No more margaritas on Cinco de Mayo for this gringo 🙂

      1. And my family fled the czar’s pogroms and came through Ellis Island and settled in Brooklyn. They were so grateful that they had reached the golden land and were eager to make it a point to learn English, become educated, and accept the American way of life. They were practically penniless but succeeded in the food business and became substantially wealthy. They also lost 2 sons in WWII and a grandson received a Purple Heart in the Vietnam Nam war. My point is, yes, come to our country, but also love it. Become a patriot. Be a proud American and contribute to OUR way of life. Do that and you will be richly rewarded and respected.

  4. Martin, I’m glad to read the distinction you make between “white” and Anglo or Anglo-Saxon. Hispanic is “white” and always has been.

    As for Jesse Garcia’s interesting comments on Thanksgiving. I think it’s important to know that Thanksgiving was an invented holiday aimed at making the Pilgrims and Puritans of Massachusetts, where there was no slavery, the “first Americans” rather than those at Jamestown, which is older but did have slavery. First attempts to make Thanksgiving a holiday began during the beginning of the Civil War and were a public relations campaign for the anti-slavery movement. As far as I’m concerned, the “first Thanksgiving” is meaningless and a poor substitute for a real study of history. Anyone who knows Texas and Southwest U.S. history knows the Spanish and Mexican land owners were here before the Puritans, Pilgrims and Jamestown. The fight over the first Thanksgiving really shows how ignorant most people are of history. I think the local campaign for recognition as the first Thanksgiving was an attempt to boil history down to sound bites that Joe Sixpack can remember and to focus attention on the Southwest for a change, rather than the East Coast. I have no problem with that.

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