Culminating in Strong Majoritarian Beliefs
Public anxieties could emerge and be stoked by rhetoric, culminating in strong majoritar- ian beliefs in the incompatibility of some groups who are believed to tend to “change and corrupt the national spirit.” Attempts to stress and normal- ize hyphenated double identities as family stories did become particularly troubling during World War I, when national loyalty had to be reinforced and seemed to demand “pitching one’s old mother out of the door.” Hence the fast-track abandonment of the hyphens in Americanization campaigns, the Ford Motor Company Melting Pot rituals, and the slogans promis- ing “Americans All!” Yet the more melting-pot catalogs listed the hetero- geneous pasts with the intention of making sure that they would be left behind, the more these differing pasts could also be reclaimed now that they had been named.
It is thus telling that Randolph Bourne’s utopian-cosmopolitan notion of a “Transnational America” as well as Horace Kallen’s concept of cultural pluralism emerged in opposition to the wartime assimilation project of the Americanizers. Bourne thought Americanization would lead to the dominance of vapid, lowest-common-denominator popular culture of cheap magazines and movies and eradicate the country’s vibrant cultural- linguistic diversity. Kallen believed that assimilation was a violation of the democracy of ethnic groups that a country like Switzerland realized more fully than melting-pot America, for assimilationists fail to recognize that “men cannot change their grandfathers.”22 As Philip Gleason showed, this belief in the immutability of ethnoracial origins was a feature that early pluralist thinking shared with that of racists, and neither believed in assim- ilation. Did pluralists, to use Kwame Anthony Appiah’s formulation, sim- ply “replace one ethnocentrism with many”?23 The complex and somewhat surprising story of the origins of cultural pluralism is the subject of the fourth essay, “A Critique of Pure Pluralism.”
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12 • Werner Sollors
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