What Makes an American? Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 12 January 2017

What Makes an American?

While observing America and its social structure, being a college student who migrated to this country just nine years ago makes me wonder where I stand. Technically, I am no longer an immigrant because I am a citizen and I am able to vote, and I feel as though I have gone through a quick process of assimilation along with my siblings. Even though we have assimilated, in our household, we still speak our own language, hold our traditions and values of own culture as we did when we came to this country.

When we are out in the public, perhaps that’s when we show our Americanness, we speak English, eat fast food, go to movie theaters, or play sports. But it is very hard for a lot of people to tell what Americanness really means, in trying to do so many generalizations and stereotypes are used. I have a greater difficulty in forming a more broad sense of opinion about America’s overall heterogeneous population, which is the most unique aspect of American culture today. Many scholars and ideologists have tried to pinpoint what the exact meaning of Americanness is.

Among these scholars are Richard Rodriguez, Samuel P. Huntington, Gino Speranza, and Charles W. Chesnutt. These scholars have many similarities, differences, and future predictions on the issue of Americanness. Richard Rodriguez was a middle class Mexican American who did not endure the typical immigrant hardships that they usually go through. While growing up, Rodriguez felt different from the los gringos and felt a great sense of intimacy with his family, and most importantly their language. But this intimate bond was strained when Richard was BABU 2 forced to become fluent in English at school.

This was the first step toward their families’ assimilation in the American culture and their achievement of Americanness. As Richard felt the intimacy no longer existed, he became intimate with books and education and ultimately became the “scholarship boy”. Richard Rodriguez’s meaning of Americanness is what drove him to become highly educated and successful later in his life, he read and read in hopes that he would speak like his teachers and he blended in with the los gringos because of his unique intelligence.

Richard Rodriguez, a Latino, has views on Americanness similar to that of the Anglo descent. I believe that Richard sees himself as los gringos now and as a typical white Anglo descent American would, Richard firmly opposes bilingual education and affirmative action. The Anglo definition of Americanness is feeling superior to minority races and cultures by being well-educated and only speaking English, and mainly assimilate to the American culture by avoiding homogeneity. These sentiments of americanness are outlined by an Anglo scholar, Samuel P. Huntington.

Huntington’s main topic of focus is the inability or even more importantly the lack of desire for Mexican Americans, Mexican and other Latino immigrants to assimilate in the American Anglo culture. Huntington strictly opposes these particular groups of immigrants because they fail in great numbers to assimilate in their proceeding generations. Huntington also argues that if assimilation does not take place, then Americanness might be what the Latino race and their culture offer, where the Anglo race would become the minority and they would have great difficulty in the political arena, educational institutes and the corporate business world.

BABU 3 Many of Huntington’s are also shared by an Italian scholar, Gino Speranza. Speranza claims that he prefers the ideal Americanness of the 1920’s and 1930’s because even though America still contained its distinct people and immigrants, these newcomers welcomed assimilation and there were not the cases of homogeneity that exists today with the Latino cultures. Another African American scholar, Charles Chesnutt sees the view of Americanness as strictly racial.

Chesnutt outlines his theories of Americanness by giving many examples of segregation of the black and the white race and their constant battle against one another. Chesnutt predicts that the struggle between these two races may only be eliminated by amalgamation. He claims that although this process would be extremely slow, the future of America would be dramatically different and Americanness would be just that, being biological union of different races that exist in this country today. In a sense, I agree with at least a few of these scholars’ ideas of Americanness.

I believe that assimilation is the main key to Americanization. I also believe that the linguistic assimilation in this country would demand for one to be bilingual and speak fluent English and Spanish. I do not think that high levels of education is a trait of Americanness and I also believe that living in a heterogeneous society such as America should not have homogeneous communities. Homogeneity makes assimilation a big obstacle and if there are races such as Latinos who continue to ignore the American culture and fail to at least assimilate linguistically, the idea of Americanness will be split in this country.

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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 12 January 2017

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