Firstly, the word assimilation is a touchy subject that has a host of connotations and denotations that cannot all be expressed in a paper of such brevity. However, suffice it to say that this term has mostly defined the immigrant experience of the not so distant past. In this way, it was incumbent upon the immigrant to work to quickly throw away and/or lose all of their prior identifying cultural qualities and subscribe to what some have referred to as a “least common denominator” which closely mirrored an Anglo-Saxon culture that was very much evidenced throughout the United States for the better part of the past 200 years. This model in and of itself is not “evil” or “wrong”; yet, it does entail a degree of cultural hubris. In necessitating a newcomer to divest himself/herself of all uniqueness and work to mirror the culture of the host as rapidly as possible, it is plainly evidence of a model that believes in a high level of cultural superiority (if not racial superiority) of the host and demands that all new-comers adopt the same way of thinking. The term is of course linked to the very American traditional idea of the “melting pot”. Such a belief requires that upon entry into the crucible, the immigrant’s own unique culture, heritage, and in some instances – even religion – will melt down and work to conceal itself with the rest of those that have come before him/her. Although idealistic in nature, the “melting pot” in practice has, never existed. Rather, it is evidence of a belief system that although striven for – was never actually realized. Evidence of such a long-standing problem is of course seen in the hundreds and even thousands of conflicts between new immigrants and slightly older immigrants throughout the many cities on the Eastern seaboard and beyond. Rather than being greeted by an idealistic society that placed a strong emphasis on cooperation, the immigrants were invariably greeted with the understanding that action required political power and the critical mass of the people to bring about. Indeed, rather than a “melting pot” of assimilation, the United States can much more appropriately be defined as a “tossed salad” of identities.
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