Hispanics and Caribbeans
Americans of Hispanic origin are the fastest growing minority today representing more than 12.5% of the American population.
Hispanics form a diverse community because of their origins: a majority comes from Mexico (Mexican Americans or Chicanos). The two other leading groups are Puerto Ricans and Cubans.
Hispanics as a whole come from 20 different countries. Therefore, there is little unity racially speaking. They form a heterogeneous socio-economic profile:
Anti-communist Cubans of the first wave were the most successful Hispanics as most of them were skilled professionals and managers in their homeland.
· Puerto Ricans have been disadvantaged as far as education is concerned and can be said to be in a worse situation than African Americans
· Mexican Americans stand in between.
In spite of their diversity, Hispanics are united on several fronts:
· Linguistically: Spanish is the most widely spoken foreign language in the US
· Religiously the majority are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic
· Geographically: most live in the Sunbelt States (50% in California and Florida)
· Socially: They have more stable family structures (70% of household are headed by a married couple) and a higher birth rate (18% more than 3 children)
· Professionally: A large proportion of the Hispanic community belongs to the working class with jobs in agriculture, textile and garment industries, catering and domestic work. Because of illegal immigration, many work in the Underground economy.
Pattern of integration: Many Hispanics do not wish to apply for American citizenship, some never learn English. (Today the US is the 5th Spanish speaking country in the world). Many Hispanics retain an exile mentality. Cubans for instance who fled Fidel Castro in the 60’s never expected to remain in the US.
Many Mexican-Americans do not regard themselves as immigrants but feel they are settling on a territory that formerly was theirs. As they also hold on to their language and traditions, it has been said that they are building a “nation within the nation.”
Asian Americans (4% of US population)
Before the Chinese exclusion act of 1882, many Chinese came to the west coast of the US to build the railroads work in gold mines or as domestic servants.
The community is made up of Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese Refugees also came from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and India.
This is a diverse community but which does share similarities. Asians are mainly known for their excellent academic achievements and spectacular assimilation. They integrate well, learn English quickly and ask for American citizenship. They often outperform whites at school and university especially in science: 30% of Berkley students, 20% of MIT and 15% of Harvad and Stanford.
The reasons for this success story are cultural. They have a Confucian view of the world (Confucius) which places a high premium on education, discipline and strong family ties. Asians therefore fully embrace the American work ethic and competitive spirit.
This success and their label as being a “model minority” generated animosity among whites as well as other minority groups. In the Los Angeles riots of 1992, blacks targeted Asian-owned stores. Furthermore, they are affected by forms of disguised discrimination: some universities where accused of imposing quotas to curb Asian presence.
American Indians/Native Americans
There are 2 million American Indians and about 500 different tribes: Cherokees, Navajos, Sioux, Chippewa’s, Choctaw, Pueblos, Apaches , Iroquois, Lumbees, Creeks.
|Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, During their annual Pow Wow|
Most of them live in the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Nevada) often on one of the 100 reservations.
Native Americans have experienced a history of painful struggle that began in the colonial period and continues today.
The only native Americans were slaughtered in the 18th and 19th century by frontiersmen who disregarded treaties signed between Washington and various tribes.
Those that did not die in the battles were moved to reservations.
The government had confusing policies with American Indians:
|Mass Grave after the Wounded Knee Massacre|
· Elimination by military means (the battles of Big Horn 1876 and Wounded Knee, 1890);
· Assimilation as with the Indian reorganization Act in 1934. All Indians were granted citizenship in 1924
The status of American Indians is very often precarious. It is a predominantly rural population living below the poverty line outside the mainstream of American society.
40% of the Indians on the Navajo reservation in Arizona are out of work for instance.
Many of them work low-skill, low-wage branches. Others live off their local crafts.
Indians, especially those living in poorer reservations are suffering from many social ills: inadequate housing, disease, poor schooling and health and a high rate of alcoholism and suicide especially among the young.
Today, American Indians are torn between the need to adapt to modern American society and to keep their identity and tribal customs alive.
These are the goals of the National Congress of American Indians (1944) and the National Indian Youth Council (1961) both of which refuse assimilation.