By James D. Agresti
Early in 2019, a firestorm of criticism descended upon veteran journalist Tom Brokaw because he said on NBC’s Meet the Press that Hispanics “should work harder at assimilation” and shouldn’t isolate themselves “in their communities.” NBC condemned his comments as “inaccurate and inappropriate,” media outlets ran articles and editorials calling them racist and factually wrong, and Brokaw apologized.
Contrary to the blowback against Brokaw, scholarly sources show that modern Latino immigrants are not assimilating like previous generations of immigrants. Furthermore, this is having negative economic impacts on them and the nation at large. These facts have nothing to do with race and everything to do with factors that can foster or impede economic prosperity.
Rejecting the Melting Pot
While berating Brokaw for his remarks, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists claimed: “To assert that the U.S. is not the melting pot that the country prides itself on being, is disinformation as the U.S. has always had immigrants and a mixture of races, religious beliefs, and languages in its history.”
That statement is demonstrably untrue, as the popular culture and academia are now rife with people who reject the idea of the U.S. as a melting pot. Instead, they insist that the U.S. is and should be a “salad bowl” in which people mix but remain culturally distinct. The editors of the academic serial work American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change explain that this trend is a substantial departure from the past:
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As a nation of immigrants and their descendants, the United States has been described over the centuries as a “melting pot” of cultures. Today, most immigration scholars and activists eschew that term, contending that it implies a loss of native culture and an assimilation process that turns peoples of diverse backgrounds into a single, culturally homogenized populace.
In the same book, Aonghas Mac Thomais St.-Hilaire of Johns Hopkins University sheds more light on this phenomenon:
Since the 1960s, as a result of ethnic revival efforts by African Americans, Latinos, and indigenous peoples, multiculturalism has emerged as a dominant ideology in the United States, and it competes with the century-old ideology stressing the importance of complete assimilation to Anglo-American norms, altering the playing field for post-1965 immigrants and their offspring.