We Are All Immigrants

Categories: InTheNews, Politics
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Published on: 2012.11.16

I recently watched two well-known conservative commentators on TV discussing the changing face of American voting demographics. One said “…it’s not a traditional America anymore” and then “The white establishment is now the minority”. Their continuing conversation made it sound like the U.S. had pretty much been homogenous up until the 2012 election, when it suddenly became brown and secular.

Both men are educated, but it sure sounded like they were ignoring the historical context that America’s ethnic demographics have always been changing. The history of our country, is a story of new groups of people being added to the old groups. Many times, the new group is absorbed completely into the existing “establishment”; other times, the new group starkly changes the old group, and replaces it to become the establishment. This isn’t a surprise, or something to fear. It’s part of the foundation on which our nation rests.

It may also be ironic that the two men’s names (O’Reilly and Goldberg) are of obvious Irish and Jewish extraction, respectively. Recorded history shows that both groups were once the subject of such commentary.

The British settlers moved in on the Native Americans, then the French and the Spanish. The early American colonies absorbed numbers of Dutch and German colonists. Early on, many of the ethnic groups maintained their own homogenous settlements or at least neighborhoods, but none of them were completely static. Numbers of black slaves were brought in during this time, though no one counted them as immigrants or settlers. They wouldn’t figure in until much later.

Then the Irish Catholics came in, much to the chagrin of the good protestant native born.

In the 1840s, the U.S. suddenly absorbed thousands of former Mexican citizens after the wars in the southwest gained us Texas, New Mexico, California, and others.

Then gold rushes and the building of the railroads saw influxes of Chinese workers.

Millions more Germans came in the late 1800s.

After steamships began plying the seas, the late 1800s saw something like 25 million immigrants, including Italians, Jews, Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, and Russians, just to name a few.

Around the turn of the century, nearly 20% of the population of Sweden and Norway came here (about 1.5 million Swedes and Norwegians), settling mainly in the upper Midwest. Lebanese and Syrian immigrants came during that time as well.

In the early 1900s, Congress spent quite a bit of its time writing and passing, and then updating and replacing laws about immigration. Already, those who’d been here for generations began to worry whether the new influxes would ruin what they’d so carefully built. New immigrants were universally characterized as dirty, lazy, and stupid, leaning toward uncontrollable criminal behavior and drinking.

Finally, the U.S. came up with the National Origins Formula in the 1920s to restrict immigration to people from the best parts of Europe, though the Western hemisphere was exempt, so many kept streaming in from Mexico, the Caribbean, and further parts of Central and South America.

There were war brides Acts, and war refugee Acts, and a dozen other Acts of Congress through the 1900s allowing one group or another to come, introducing Filipinos, Koreans, Hungarians, Japanese, Cubans, Greeks, Indians, and Arabs to our already overflowing “melting pot”.

And each time, some of those who were already here couldn’t stand it.

Based on this trend that’s never had a break, it stands to reason that O’Reilly and Goldberg will (a generation from now) be replaced by commentators with surnames of Spanish extraction who are complaining about the next wave of immigrants, whoever they may be.

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