The question then arises if assimilation has two components, the first being the actions of the immigrant and the second being the reactions of society. The issue then becomes of what groups can fully achieve the latter and what that means for these individuals and their experiences with discrimination in the United States. As Gloash-Boza explains:

Some Latinos/as are holding onto their national origin identifiers and refusing to hyphenate themselves, even in the third generation. Others are taking on a hyphenated American Identity and still others are assuming the pan-ethnic label. Which path these individuals take depends on their experiences in the United States. Those Latinos/as who appear “white” and do not face discrimination are more likely to assimilated into U.S. society and become unhyphenated Americans. They, like immigrants from Europe, can disappear unnoticed into the melting pot, if they so choose. However, those Latinos/as who face discrimination and who are not perceived to be white are less likely to be viewed by others and consequently by themselves as Americans. Yet, even if Latinos/as born in the United States are not Americans they are also not Mexicans or Cubans, since they are also viewed as foreigners in Mexico or Cuba. Latin Americans and their descendants in the United States have responded to this denial of full citizenship by fostering a new ethnic identity that recognizes their shared experiences of discrimination and exclusion in the United States. This new identity is that of Latino and Latina Americans.(Golash-Boza 52)

The hyphenated American is derived from society’s inability to accept all assimilated people as “Americans.” In the case of Latinos individuals are making decisions to hold on to their culture for prolonged periods in comparison to other migrant groups, sometimes even into the third generation. There is no real choice in the perception of who is an American when it comes down to skin color. In the United States the immigrants from Europe who had a Caucasian appearance set the standard for and “American” . For Latinos this creates an issue because in the diversity of skin tones existent. The choice to blend in and “disappear unnoticed into the melting pot” is unavailable for a Latino of darker skin tone no matter what level of cultural assimilation he thinks he has obtained. Even three generations will not be able to change the preconceived notion that a person who appears “black” can be a Latino without connections to the longstanding American history of brutality towards slaves and later African-Americans. The problem of assimilation goes further than within the borders of the United States because a person assimilated to American culture will not be able to fit into the culture of his ancestry therefore making him a person with no real nationality. It seems as if no choice is left but to create the hyphenated American when such powerful forces constantly compartmentalize people by their skin tone and what they look like. The “denial of full citizenship” is a problem for these individuals because they constantly battle not being able to totally fit in American and in the land of their heritage. This leads to the questions of how discrimination works. It appears that people being discriminated have no real options in preventing themselves from being discriminated because agency is in the hands of the beholder who can take one look at a person and pass a judgment regarding nationality.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.