Discussion: The Americanizers’ Assimilation
Big changes in race relations and in immigration policies came in the course of the 1960s. Neither the Americanizers’ assimilation project nor Bourne and Kallen’s pluralism had paid much attention to African Amer- icans and Indians in their models of transnational or pluralist America; they remained “encapsulated in white ethnocentrism,” as John Higham put it.24 However, the successes of the civil rights movement forced a new rec- ognition of the privilege of whiteness that earlier models of Americanness had quietly taken for granted or simply ignored in their reflections. The example of African Americans’ struggle for equality inspired the Ameri- can Indian movement, women’s liberation, the struggle for gay rights, and other movements and led to more vocal demands for a more universally egalitarian country, measured by its inclusiveness of previously excluded groups. This was reflected in the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act that abolished racially motivated national origins quotas. The recognition also gained dominance that past discriminations on the basis of categories like race, gender, and religion needed not just corrections on the individual level but “affirmative action” toward groups that had been discriminated against as groups. This recognition required strenuous attacks on exclu- sionary practices of the past and generated a new hopefulness that stressing what had divided Americans in the past could become the connecting link of the present. This emphasis on group rights is what became known in theFrom such beginnings, there slowly emerged a new sense of Ameri- canness that emphasized more and more the aspects of ethnic diversity as constitutive and hopefully unifying features of the country. Rather than generating anxiety, diversity could now become a source of national pride, generating the belief that the inhabitants’ “heterogeneous com- pound” was, in fact, the answer to the quest for national unity. The pro- cess was interrupted by World War II, when the search for “common ground” (also the title of a magazine edited by the Slovenian immigrant Louis Adamic) summoning national unity out of diversity was challenged by the fear of new sets of US relatives of wartime enemies:
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