Sometime in this century, we are told, the United States will become a “majority-minority” country—that is, a nation where whites make up less than 50 percent of the population. Many believe this signals a fundamental change in America. Does it? Is the Melting Pot a thing of the past?
Absolutely not, says political historian Michael Barone. In The New Americans, Barone reminds us that the United States has never been a homogeneous, monoethnic nation. He reveals how the new Americans of today can be interwoven into the fabric of American life just as immigrants have been interwoven throughout U.S. history.
Barone demonstrates the startling and important similarities between today’s new Americans and nineteenth-century immigrant groups: “in many ways,” he writes, “blacks resemble Irish, Latinos resemble Italians, Asians resemble Jews.” We need to recognize such similarities and learn from America’s success in assimilating earlier immigrants, as well as from the mistakes that were made along the way.
Barone shows that the biggest mistake we can make is to act as if we are at a wholly new place in history; “America in the future will be multiracial and multiethnic, but it will not—or should not—be multicultural in the sense of containing ethnic communities marked off from and adversarial to the larger society, any more than today’s America consists of unassimilated and adversarial communities of Irish, Italians, or Jews.” He also refutes the notion that the situation today is different because today’s minorities are of different races; as he points out, “a hundred years ago the Irish, Italians, and Jews were considered to be other races” as well.
If we heed the lessons of America’s past—and avoid misguided policies and programs that hinder rather than help assimilation—the Melting Pot will work as well as it always has.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: The New Americans
- Part 1: Irish and Blacks
- Chapter 1: Irish
- Chapter 2: Blacks
- Part 2: Italians and Latinos
- Chapter 3: Italians
- Chapter 4: Latinos
- Part 3: Jews and Asians
- Chapter 5: Jews
- Chapter 6: Asians
- Conclusion: We’ve Been Here Before