Originally Posted by TRENNER
The official motto for the USA is E Pluribus Unum, many into one. From the start, the USA has been a haven for diverse ethnic and religious groups. Because this has occured from Day 1, different nationalities and religions are accepted as part of the national fabric. Over 180 native languages are currently spoken by residents of NYC, where I live. NYC, which has been part of the USA since its founding, has had substantial immigration from a variety of different countries since the 1600's. In Europe, by contrast, acceptance of different nationalities and religions is a relatively recent phenomenon.
There has been backlash here at times, so acceptance has not been 100%. There has been vehement anti-Catholic sentiment, including formation of an anti-Catholic party, the Know-Nothings, in the mid 19th Century. There has also been anti-Semitism and lately anti-Islamic sentiment. There are also currently staunchly anti-immigrant groups such as the Minutemen, who patrol the Mexican border.
Nevertheless, overall because the country has been open to diverse immigrants from the start, the culture welcomes and absorbs them. For instance, Muslims in the USA are much more integrated into society than Muslims in France, despite the infamous 2001 terrorist attacks.
IMO, Europe could become more like America. However, it takes time to change attitudes and many European locales were relatively homogeneous through the 1960's.
So is this a consious act of American policy, has American identity been structured so that the symbols of the nation can draw people in, without threatening their original identity? In Europe we have tried two main models to try and assimulate new arrivals. Both of which have failed. In the UK we have what is called a multi-cultural society. New cultures are accommadated, people can have seperate schools, live in seperate communities, even interact with offical bodies in their own language. There has even been attempts to allow certain communities, muslims for example, to use limited aspects of their own civil codes to deal things like marriage disputes. This has all been done under the banner of a British idenity; English, Welsh and Scotish identities seem much hard for new arrivals to take on. The result has been country that often feels divided, lots of isolated communities not really unified by anything.
France has taken the opposite approach, if you move France your expected to take on the values of the republic. Including the French language, and the secular state. The French won't hesitate to ban things like the hijab from public spaces, if they feel it is a threat to the French idenity. Has it worked? Well the regular riots in the French suburbs, the banlieue, say otherwises. Through it is interesting that when people speak to the rioters their main complaint is that they have done French state has asked, they feel that they are French. Yet they are left on edge of society, without jobs, or a stake. The French system is often used to justify racist and exclusive views.
Race is a knotty problem when it comes to discusing issues around identity. I'm white, which means in England I don't really think about race much. What I mean is that being in majority, my skin colour doesn't affect how people view me, i don't define myself as white. The old English way of absorbing new arrivals was to make them English, just like my family. Two or free generations in, most people felt English and their connection with their orginal country was vague at best. Race changes this, because it is a constant reminder of difference, of outsider status. Both to the person, and people meeting that person. We are strange species, to try define the music, food, and are behaviour by our skin tone. When rationally it should have nothing to do with it. Being black doesn't mean that someone will like rap music, being white doesn't mean your going to dislike it. Yet we make these assumptions, and people feel that they often have to live up too them. Hence black the community, the asian community, or hispanic community. We have an ideal of not judging people by their race, yet at the same time people define themselves by their race. A difficult contridiction to untangle. I suppose what I'm trying to get at is how can we make make people comfortable, including white people, moving out of their little boxes. Interacting, and living with people from all backgrounds; withour forcing something on them that feels threatening. Of all the countries in the world American seems closest to the solution.
Saying that, America does have it's problems, thanks to slavery. African Americans, at least from this side of the pond, seem to be a group that is seperate. A group that is mistreated by mainstream America, and finds fitting in the American state the hardest. It is hard to trust a country that kidnapped your ancestors.