Crevecoeur`sLetter III: What is an American?
Inhis letter (1782), Crevecoeur discusses the different aspects ofbeing an American. According to Crevecoeur, the American populace wasmainly composed of a mixture of immigrants with different culturalbackgrounds. Crevecoeur takes note that Americans are mainlydescendants from the Europe or European in origin, “The next wishof this traveller will be to know whence came all these people? Theyare a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, andSwedes” (Crevecoeur 51) whom “from this promiscuous breed, thatrace now called Americans have arisen (Crevecoeur 51). By assertingthat America was a monolithic integration or an assimilation ofdifferent cultures from Europe, Crevecoeur’s argument appears to beincompatible with democratic principles. Crevecoeur supportedassimilation integration model but not the pluralist integrationmodel of immigrants as was in the case in the United States(Crevecoeur 51). In his arguments, Crevecoeur purports thatimmigrants lost their cultural roots and hence became Americans. Hecaptures that, “Here individuals of all nations are melted into anew race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause greatchanges in the world” (Crevecoeur 55). Looking at this, it is clearthat the monolithic integration advanced by Crevecoeur in explainingthe American immigration was incompatible with democracy principlehis approach on assimilation is intolerant, unjust anddiscriminatory.
Themonolithic integration model as advanced by Crevecoeur was oppressiveand incompatible with democracy and the model views the inhabitantsof America as not natives. In support of this Crevecoeur says that,“What then is the American, this new man? He Is either a European,or the descendant of a European, hence that strange mixture of blood,which you will find in no other country” (Crevecoeur 54). Accordingto monolithic integration model, immigrants left their homes andshould not have any ethnic heritage and should strive to love theircountry more than their country of origin, “The American oughttherefore to love this country much better than that wherein eitherhe or his forefathers were born (Crevecoeur 55.” This oppressestheir democracy and freedom of choice on what to love as well asinclination on their origins. Hence, according to the monolithicmodel, the immigrants did not have their own home culture and were toembrace the dominant cultural aspects of the white group in America(Martin 8). Immigrants were forced to share and use cultural aspectsof the larger group so as to become culturally homogenous. Inparticular, English language was adopted by most immigrants therebyforgetting their cultural languages. This argument is anti-democraticby promoting English as the official language, eroding bilingualeducation and enforcing restrictions on legal immigrants, andcitizenship (Martin & Midgley 21).
Furthermore,the melting pot perspective can be used to negatively influencevoting and voter registration. The melting pot theory embraces theassumption that immigrants get absorbed in the dominant culture andthis is a recipe for oppression(Castillo 59).The melting pot theory, regard some immigrants as minorities and thishas been misused politically and socially to deny certain groupstheir constitutional rights. For instance, the incarceration ratesamong the blacks are relatively high compared to members of otherrace in the U.S. In this case, the melting pot theory is incompatiblewith democratic principles of equality by promoting anti-culturalsentiments towards individuals deemed to come from inferior race orethnic groups.
Blamecan be laid on monolithic integration model for persistence of ethnicaffiliation among many Americans into the second and thirdgeneration long after the language and knowledge of the “oldcountry” has been lost. Crevecoeur captures that despite some ofthe individuals taking advantage to improve and recover frombarbarity it is alarming that others still maintain their old ways.They carry with them their modes of worship, rules and forms and arenot ready to let go (Crevecoeur 69). “The first never settlesingly, it is a colony of the society which emigrates they carrywith them their forms, worship, rules, and decency: the others neverbegin so hard, they are always able to buy improvements, in whichthere is a great advantage, for by that time the country is recoveredfrom its first barbarity. Thusour bad people are those who are half cultivators and half huntersand the worst of them are those who have degenerated altogether intothe hunting state. As old ploughmen and new men of the woods, asEuropeans and new made Indians, they contract the vices of both theyadopt the moroseness and ferocity of a native, without his mildness,or even his industry at home (Crevecoeur 69).”
Sincethe late 19thcentury and throughout the 20thcentury the concept of melting pot has had negative impacts on theimmigration policy. According to Crevecoeur, the main proponentToday, the American immigration policy is as prejudiced as it was inthe nineteenth century(Martin6).Immigration in the U.S is still done through the quota system forsome racial groups while other races such as the British, French andIsraelis have absolute immigration qualification (Martin& Midgley36).Many blacks, Indians, Latinos and some Spanish are still consideredas ‘undesirables’ among the white American society. In addition,unlike the pluralistic perspective that recognizes the distinctculture in the American society the melting pot theory has been usedilliberally(Martin12).American politics though liberal in policy framework, are illiberalwhen it comes to discriminating minority voice. It was not untilrecently that blacks’ political participation in American politicswas recognized.
Whilethe melting pot theory offers an elaborate explanation of flawlessassimilation, the perspective has been used as a basis of racial andethnic segregation(Martin 11).In the modern America, skin color has been used subjectively toharass, discriminate or stereotype particular communities. Marriagesbetween the white Americans and the blacks are still problematic.Politically, the blacks do not enjoy the same level of freedom as thewhite immigrants from Europe. Furthermore, the film industry stillmimics the racial segregation between different races and to anextent promotes the aspect of race superiority and inferiority.
Thepluralists view American culture as an integration of individualswith each with having a distinct culture. In addition, the pluralistperspective is less discriminatory and radical. The subordinate groupis not absorbed completely into the dominant culture this promotesmultilingual culture and relations.Assimilation ensures that the society get a feeling of homelandsecurity as each group is recognized(Martin& Midgley22).To this end, the multiculturalists believe that homogeneity is to beachieved when each cultural group is recognized and treated on equalmeasure. Each cultural group has a right to retain its cultural rootsand integrity. Multiculturalists support loose immigration andadvocate for bilingual education and affirmative action for thebenefit of all cultural groups especially the vulnerable(Martin8).
Intheir view, multiculturalists perceive melting pot theory asoppressive the assimilationists on the other hand opine thatmonolithic integration theory is advantageous to government andpeople. Assimilationists see the discriminatory aspect of controlledimmigrations as harboring lots of benefits to the societyeconomically. Assimilationists support the melting pot theory as onethat promotes the will of the majority and not the minority. Inaddition, the asimilationist view the melting pot theory as positiveand promoting national identity(Martin 11).Asimilationist disregard the multicultural perspective of separatingcitizens on racial and ethnic lines for special privileges. On theother hand, multiculturalists see the idea of monolithic integrationas oppressive and the idea that one sees their culture as dominant tothe other can be destructive. These individuals often despise othersand would not want to stay with their neighbors. “The chase rendersthem ferocious, gloomy, and unsociable a hunter wants no neighbour,he rather hates them, because he dreads the competition (Crevecoeur67).” Thus, according to the multiculturalists the pluralisticperspective augments homogeneity, affirmative action unlike themelting pot theory.
Castillo,Susan. The Ambivalent Americanness of J. Hector St. Jean deCrevecoeur. 2010, page. 48-57. Retrieved 27th March 2015, from<<http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=clcweblibrary>>
CrevecoeurJohn. Lettersfrom an American Farmer.New York: Fox, Duffield and Company. 1904. Print. Pg 48-91.
Martin,Phillip. Immigration and integration: The US experience and Lessonsfor Europe. 2003.<<http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kmi/Bilder/kmi_WP16.pdf>>
Martin& Midgley.Immigration: Shaping and Reshaping America. 2003, pages.48-51.<<http://www.npc.umich.edu/news/events/PRB-Monograph-Final.pdf>>