The topic ofimmigration continues to be the center of discussion in the United Statesbecause of some Americans continuous fear of its threat to American culture.This has led to many anti-immigration policies that have targeted Hispanicimmigrants, in particular, due to the cultural and political threat they poseby not assimilating into mainstream white American culture. Some have arguedthat Mexican and Latino immigrants threaten to divide the United States intotwo languages, two peoples, and two cultures, which would ultimately generateanother nation. Some Americans go as far to believe that the American dream isbased on an Anglo-Protestant culture that integrates the English language andreligious commitment.
However, it could easily be argued that it is wrong toclaim that Anglo-Protestant culture is the core of American national identityfor the mere fact that American society is continuously evolving. Today, thereis opportunity to embrace multiculturalism in an effort to encourage diversityand assimilation. The melting pot helps Americans believe that patriotism iscomplementary rather than a rivalry of identities. Therefore, it is importantto examine what it means to adopt the American way of life, especially whensuggesting that it means to adhere to the Anglo-Protestant culture in order toidentify oneself as a patriotic American. As a result of such a controversialissue, this essay will examine Samuel P. Huntington’s views on Hispanicimmigration, their impact on American cultural values, and the support andcriticism it has generated based on Huntington’s work. Accordingto former conservative political scientist and professor at Harvard University,Samuel P.
Huntington argued that Hispanic immigrants would eventually clashwith native born Americans due to cultural differences that would generate a”MexAmerica.” In his text, “The Hispanic Challenge” (2004), he emphasized howthe American dream consists of all Americans conforming to an Anglo-Protestantsociety that only speaks English, has one culture, and one religion. This sortof creed has become the basis and most essential component of U.S.
identity;however, not everyone would agree. Huntington states, “Most Americans see thecreed as the crucial element of their national identity. The creed, however,was the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the foundingsettlers. Key elements of that culture include the English language;Christianity; religious commitment…” (Huntington, p.
32) and other elementsthat would result to a sort of “heaven on earth.” It was basically Huntington’sbelief that if immigrants decided to enter this country, then they would haveto conform to these rules to make sure America kept their white legacy. Theissue that he found, however, was that Mexican and Latino immigrants posed athreat as he asked, “Will the United States remain a country with a singlenational language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture?” (Huntington, p.
32).His fear was basically that the United States would soon be taken of theirAnglo-Protestant culture and instead become a bifurcated nation with twopeoples and two cultures of Anglos and Hispanics, and two languages of Englishand Spanish. This is why he has made an effort to provoke white nationalism ashe stated that it is “the next logical stage for identity politics in America…”(Huntington, p. 41). Essentially, he and other critics of immigration believethat there will soon be a rise of white nationalists who will attempt to put anend to cultural and linguistic threats to their country in order toprevent the expanding power of Hispanics and the creation of MexAmerica.Unfortunately, this can be seen in politics today.
On June 16, 2015,presidential candidate, Donald Trump caused a lot of controversy during hispresidential announcement. Standing in his hotel at Central Park West, he madeimmigration restriction one of the main issues of his campaign. It was herethat Trump stated that Mexico was “sending people that have a lot of problems,and they’re bringing those problems with us (sic). They’re bringing drugs.They’re bringing crime, they’re rapists…” (Scribner, p. 263).
Ultimately, itwas speeches like this that got him elected as the president of the UnitedStates. According to Todd Scribner’s article, “You are Not Welcome HereAnymore: Restoring Support for Refugee Resettlement in the Age of Trump”(2017), he examined how Huntington popularized culture as the main clash ofcivilizations rather than ideology, which can be seen throughout the Trumpadministration. Scribner states, “One of the former key advisors to Trumpwas Stephen Bannon, the former executive chairman at Breitbart News.In his daily radio show, Bannon often used rhetoric that reinforced the Clashof Civilizations paradigm, particularly as it pertained to the incompatibilitybetween the Western and Islamic worlds” (Scribner, p. 272). As a whitenationalist, Bannon claimed that Muslim refugees were a threat to theJudeo-Christian West and often emphasized how the existing Judeo-Christianculture was important for Western life.
While this example does not targetHispanic immigrants, it does exemplify how political figures in today’s societyalso follow Huntington’s ideals when strongly believing that the U.S. bases itsvalues on Anglocentric culture. Scribnercontinues by emphasizing how Americans, especially white Christian Republicans,voted for Trump because he took advantage of their fear of migrant populations.He states, “As important as national security, the perceived cultural threatthat immigrants pose as a second factor in Trump’s appeal; it is a threat thatextends to…
migrant populations. Nearly six in 10 Trump supporters and 51percent of Republicans overall, reported the opinion that immigrants werechanging American society ‘a lot’ and of those who shared this belief, 74percent say it has been for the worse…” (Scribner, p. 276). Not only that, buta majority of white Americans have also stated that they felt some sort ofdiscomfort around immigrants that did not speak English.
Essentially, “Manywhite evangelicals and conservative Republicans have a precarious sense ofplace in American culture. Alongside the perceived onslaught of secularism andchanging morals, the influx of immigrants is yet another blow to theirlongstanding preeminence in defining American cultural standards” (Scribner, p.276). Overall, it appears that Huntington is outdated in his efforts tomaintain an Anglo-Protestant culture because there is evidence that indicatesthe end of white Christian America because of the amount of foreign influencethat has been brought by the influx of migrants who have settled in the U.S.and have already formed their own cultural setting.
Although, it is clear thatthere has been a shift in white nationalists in today’s politics. Huntingtonclaimed in his work that there would soon be a rise in white nationalists inAmerica in an effort to preserve their race, since “culture is a product ofrace” (Huntington, p. 41). While this sounds completely racist and encouragingwords to those that advocate white racial supremacy, Huntington insists thatthey are not. However, those words may actually be doing just that as Henry A.Giroux explains in his article, “White Nationalism, Armed Culture and StateViolence in the Age of Donald Trump” (2017) that the election of Trump hasactually provoked a culture of war created by the forces of white supremacy. Hestates, “..
.white supremacy and militarization have been unleashed in aseries of policies designed to return the United States to a history in whichthe public sphere was largely white and Christian…” (Giroux, p.887).Essentially, he is making aware that there has been a normalization of racialhatred ever since Trump’s election.
While Trump and his administration may nothave consciously embraced Huntington’s ideology, they have and continue toreplicate some of Huntington’s work. Giroux points out that Jeff Sessions andTrump both see immigration as an “internal threat” and, therefore, intend toissue orders that “strengthen the grip of law enforcement, raise barriers tovoting and significantly reduce all forms of immigration, promoting what seemsto be a longstanding desire to reassert the country’s European and Christianheritage” (Giroux, p. 893).
Giroux argues that this advocates whitenationalists and white supremacy as Trump and his administration appear toembrace the values of an “ultra-nationalist and militarized white publicsphere” (p. 894). Therefore, it appears that Huntington’s theory of whitenationalists coming to a rise is possible since this country’s own presidentalso continues to see immigration as a threat; however, there are otherresistant Americans that believe in embracing unity as they view it as truedemocracy.
Therefore, while there is an effort being made by white nationaliststo preserve their Anglocentric and Anglo-Protestant heritage, there are othersthat believe in preserving justice and democracy for all. When examiningHuntington further, it is clear to many of his critics that his work is atactic for creating a generalized fear of “the other.” Not only that, but hiswork has also exemplified racism and ignorance. For example, according tosociologist, David Montejano’s article, “Who is Samuel P. Huntington? PatrioticReading for Anglo Protestants Who Live in Fear of the Reconquista” (2004),rightfully attacks Huntington for claiming that the United States is not meantto be made up of bilingualism, biculturalism, or an “Americano dream.
” Hesuggests that the only way to live according to the American dream is forMexicans to dream in English. Montejano states, “Huntington seems unaware thattransnationalism, bilingualism, biculturalism, and a concentrated Mexicanpresence have been facts of border life since the region was annexed more than150 years ago…Nonetheless, the readily available evidence demonstrates that’Mexican Americans not born in Mexico’ speak English fluently, intermarryfrequently, are often economically successful, and loyally fight in America’swars” (Montejano, p. 4). Essentially, this is why critics believe thatHuntington’s work was used as an attempt to rationalize racist and nativistviews against Hispanic immigrants.
Not only that,but according to the article, “Are Mexicans in the United States a Threat tothe American Way of Life?” (2007), Rogelio Saenz, Janie Filoteo, and AureliaLorena Murga further criticize Huntington’s views as they state, “…in orderto make his arguments more plausible, he magnifies the Anglo-Protestant rootsof American culture; caricatures the relationship between culture and society;sentimentalizes and trivializes past immigrant assimilation…and exaggeratesseveral challenges to assimilation in the twenty-first century..
.” (Saenz, etal., p.
380). Basically, Huntington has claimed that there are substantialanti-American intellectuals within the American nation and, therefore, hasencouraged his defenders to believe that Hispanic immigrants do not like theAmerica they come to and result in changing it in an effort to fit theirdreams. Yet, most of his defenders do not look for any further research andhave fallen victim to believing and sharing false information, such asbelieving that “…70% of ‘illegals are Mexican'” (Saenz, et al.
, p. 379), whichis not true. For reasons like this, his critics believe that his theories areplain xenophobic, racist nonsense. Another issuethat has created criticism is Huntington’s image of what a Mexican or Latinolooks like. Throughout his text, he provides images of Hispanics not based ontelenovelas, but Mexicans that are of darker skin color, mostly women, and havechildren. These images have been purposely used in an effort to prove thatMexican and Latino immigrants are coming into the U.
S. with no future plans ofstopping. He is very resistant to the idea of the melting pot and acceptingAmerica’s identity as a nation of immigrants. According to Saenz, Filoteo, andMurga, they further criticize Huntington for generating fears of the “browningof America” and diverting away from white America. Huntington makes no spacefor the melting pot model of multiculturalism, but rather emphasizes onmaintaining the Anglocentric image of those that settled the country. Accordingto James H. Johnson Jr.
, Walter C. Farrell Jr., and Chandra Guinn’s article,”Immigration Reform and the Browning of America: Tensions, Conflicts and CommunityInstability in Metropolitan Los Angeles,” (1997), explain how the influx ofimmigrants from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbeanhave naturally resulted in a browning of America.
They explain, “…changes inthe origin, size and composition of the U.S. immigrant population havecontributed to what some characterized as the ‘browning of America,’ a ratherdramatic change in the racial complexion and cultural orientations of theAmerican population” (Johnson Jr.
, et al., np). Therefore, this is proof thatthe U.S. culture is changing whether Huntington wants it to or not. It may betrue that at one point in American history that Anglo-Protestant culture wasthe norm; however, we are now living in a melting pot made up of different migrants.Huntington said it himself when he explained that Hispanics are expanding theirpower throughout U.S.
society. This is why it is outdated to promote whitenationalism in an America that is continuously diverting away fromAnglo-Protestant culture. With that beingsaid, when examining what Hispanics thought about assimilating into mainstreamAmerican society, Jack Citrin, Amy Lerman, Michael Murakami and KathrynPearson’s article, “Testing Huntington: Is Hispanic Immigration a Threat toAmerican Identity?” (2007), explain how they actually do assimilate intoAmerican culture through time.
For example, while it has been proven thatHispanic immigrants eventually learn English, they still continue to speakSpanish, especially in areas bordering Mexico. However, even this isproblematic in the eyes of Huntington as he still sees this as underminingAmerican culture and political unity. However, they explain how according tothe 2000 Census, there is “…large-scale immigration in a geographically concentratedarea that has not slowed the rate of linguistic assimilation among those ofMexican ancestry. Mexican immigrants may know less English than newcomers fromother countries when they arrive in the United States, but.
..their rate oflinguistic assimilation is on par with or greater than those of othercontemporary immigrant groups” (Citrin, et al.
, p. 35). Basically, the censusdata has proven that Hispanic immigrants have integrated into the Americanmainstream as they have generally lost their fluency in Spanish due to beinggeographically dispersed and creating newer generations of children that growup speaking English. Having said that,the article indicates that Hispanics are just as proud to be American as whitesare especially the offspring of recent immigrants. The article states, “…thepsychological incorporation of immigrants is ongoing.
Native-born Hispanicsexpress the same level of attachment to the United States as whites and thepatriotic outlook of naturalized Hispanics in the Los Angeles samples issimilar to that of those born in the United States” (Citrin, et al., p. 42).
Examples such as this discredit Huntington as a majority of his argument statesthat Hispanic immigrants make no effort to assimilate into American culture whenthere is actually evidence of them trying. Heinsists that institutionalizing diversity will wear down patriotism and be thereason for the nation to clash. However, he and those that share his fear of the nationclashing between Hispanic immigrants and native born Americans should come tothe understanding that most Americans believe in sharing a common culture that”evolves as newcomers add elements of their cultural heritage to the Americanway of life” (Citrin, et al., p. 43).
This sort of multicultural melting pot iswhat helps Americans believe that patriotism is interdependent rather than acompetition of identities. Rather, cultural assimilation and cultural pluralismwould assist different racial and ethnic groups to blend into the largersociety in an effort to maintain their distinct cultures while also embracing a”melting pot of cultures” (Citrin, et al., p. 43). To conclude,defining the American dream in contemporary society is drastically differentthan in the past. In the past, the American dream was based on Americansabiding to an Anglo-Protestant culture that valued English and Christianity.
However, today’s society is continuously diverting away from those old valuesas immigrants continue to settle in the United States, especially Mexican andLatino immigrants. Huntington, political leaders, white nationalists, andothers that are like-minded fear the melting pot and multiculturalism becauseit threatens to clash with white America. They fear that this clash willgenerate a MexAmerica and an “Americano dream” that would encouragebilingualism and biculturalism. There have even been efforts made by whitenationalists to preserve their heritage by normalizing racial hatred, which canbe seen in today’s politics as well.
Current political figures like thepresident of the United States, Donald Trump have targeted Hispanic immigrantsby labeling them as an “internal threat” that needs to be controlled. Thesemanipulative depictions of immigration have created further division withinthis country as there are still those that support the Anglo-Protestant cultureand those that do not. Critics of Huntington have provided evidence to suggestthat there is not much to fear as Hispanic immigrants are making an effort toassimilate into American culture; however, multiculturalism is continuouslyproving to be the new definition of America’s identity. Therefore, it does notseem appropriate or truthful for Huntington to claim that Mexican and Latinoimmigrants have not made an effort to integrate into the United States.
Rather,it only seems appropriate to embrace multiculturalism as it helps encourage afuture of diversity, assimilation, and pluralism.