Pluralism and Group Relations

Citation:

Hochschild JL. Pluralism and Group Relations. In The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965 edited by Mary Waters and Reed Ueda, with Helen Marrow. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press; 2007. pp. 164-175.

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9/12/2005 4:17 PM

Pluralism and Group Relations

Jennifer Hochschild

Harvard University

September 12, 2005

 

For The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration Since 1965, edited by Mary C. Waters and Reed Ueda with Helen B. Marrow (Harvard University Press, 2007).

 

 

What is most apparent about intergroup relations in the United States is how enormously complex, even contradictory, they are.  One can find reams of evidence showing that connections among American racial and ethnic groups are strong, constructive, and growing; one can find equivalent reams showing connections to be weak, hostile, and stagnant.  It is equally easy to find competing conceptualizations, of both groups and relations. Groups should be thought of as small and distinct nationalities, or as large, panethnic races.  Or, political coalitions should be understood as pragmatic alliances to accomplish discrete goals, or as broad movements based on deep identities pursuing fundamental transformation of society.  Intergroup relations are best explained in terms of psychological affect, or economic interests, or cultural ties, or political calculations.

            This essay explicates some of the clashing empirical findings and some of the most important conceptual disagreements involved in the idea of intergroup relations. I then seek to make sense of this mixture by organizing it into two sets of patterns: a typology of types of intergroup relations, particularly political coalitions, and an outline of the structure within which members of racial and ethnic groups interact.  Finally, I use all of this material to speculate briefly about how intergroup relations might change as more and more new Americans are incorporated into the society and polity of the United States.

 

Intergroup Relations Are Good and Getting Better

            Survey data show a dramatic improvement in the late twentieth century in how members of various American racial and ethnic groups understand and engage with one another.  In the 1950s, barely 4 percent of Americans endorsed intermarriage; now three-quarters do, according to the Gallup poll. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, among married couples, seven in ten Native Americans and three in ten Latinos and Asian Americans had chosen a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. African Americans are less likely to marry at all, and many fewer marry outside their race – in 2000, about 13 percent of black marriages were to a non-black. Still, that is a huge rise over the past several decades, and some demographers predict that even black intermarriage is in the early stages of the same sort of rapid rise that we have witnessed among other racial and ethnic groups.  According to the New York Times, the most preferred five names for Hispanic boys born in Texas in 2002 included Jonathan; the parallel list for girls included Ashley, Jennifer, and Samantha. The list is similar for New York City.  In another Gallup poll in 2004, almost three-quarters of Americans agreed that relations between whites and blacks, and between white and Hispanics, are “very” or “somewhat” good. They judged white-Asian relations to be a little better and black-Hispanic relations to be a little worse – but at least sixty percent of each racial or ethnic group thought all pairs of interactions were good.

            Evidence on the success of intergroup relations is not limited to surveys or interracial marriages and naming.  Census data reveal that levels of residential segregation have been declining, slowly but surely, over the past few decades, especially in the west and in relatively new communities.  Corporations and major institutions seek employees with language skills and cultural backgrounds that will appeal to customers and clients newly immigrated from Latin America or Asia. The top military officers in the United States, university presidents, and executives of major corporations all endorsed affirmative action to the Supreme Court in the early 2000s on the grounds that it was an essential tool for developing effective intergroup relations, which are themselves essential.  The cover of Newsweek magazine shows “The New Black Power: Ability, Opportunity & the Rise of Three of the Most Important CEOs in America;” other cover stories laud the appeal of Asian men, and the vigor and power of young Latinos; the articles may be patronizing, but they would not appear if editors judged other Americans to be uninterested in or unsympathetic to new Americans as well as to blacks.  In a few districts and cities, majority-white constituencies have elected African Americans or Asians to Congress or a mayoralty.  The proportion of blacks registered to vote is close to that of the proportion of whites, and the gaps between white registration rates and those of Latinos and Asians are slowly but consistently declining. In the US Army, despite its roots in the conservative, southern, male environment, a large share of officers are black and, increasingly, Latino; it is the one institution in American society where people of color, of both genders, routinely exercise authority over white men. Proponents of gay marriage urge courts to follow the model of the judicial system when it abolished miscegenation laws several decades ago, and politicians in many states are slowly moving to ensure homosexual rights.  For these and other reasons, one can plausibly argue that racial and ethnic groups in the United States are learning to respect, work with, and accept the authority of each other -- and even enjoy one another’s company.

 

Intergroup Relations Are Bad, and Possibly Getting Worse

            However, one can also read surveys, laws, residential patterns, and data on employment and elections to come to just the opposite conclusion: racial and ethnic groups in the United States are locked into a system of mutual mistrust, white domination, and racialization or exclusion of the new Americans who are neither black nor white.  The same Gallup poll that found that a majority of Americans see intergroup relations as good also showed that Americans are about evenly split between those who expect black-white relations to be “always a problem for the United States” and those who believe that “a solution will eventually be worked out.”  The split is virtually identical to the division in 1963, when the question was first asked. African Americans are especially pessimistic, in some surveys more now than several decades ago.  In another survey conducted by Michael Dawson and Rovana Popoff, virtually all white Americans agreed that enslavement was wrong.  But only 30 percent, compared with 79 percent of blacks, further agreed that the federal government should apologize for it; two-thirds of blacks, but only a meager 4 percent of whites, believed that the federal government should “pay monetary compensation to African Americans whose ancestors were slaves”.  Survey items inviting respondents to endorse negative stereotypes of members of other groups invariably find many willing to do so. In every survey, members of non-white groups, especially blacks and (to a lesser degree) Hispanics, perceive high levels of discrimination against themselves and others in their group in employment, education, the criminal justice system, health care, and daily interactions.  In most surveys, native-born Americans agree that rates of immigration should be slowed or even halted, and in many a plurality or majority agree that immigration in recent decades has harmed their community or the nation.

            Here too, surveys are mainly a window into broader patterns of behavior. Residential racial separation may be declining from its height of a few decades ago, but it remains the case that almost two-thirds of either black or white Americans would need to move in order for neighborhoods not to be racially identifiable.  In 2001, only 30 percent of black students in the south attended majority white schools – down from a high of 43 percent in the late 1980s, and a little lower than the level of racial integration in 1970.  At the same time, Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee show that “the percent of Latino students in predominantly minority schools in the West has almost doubled from 42 percent in 1968 to 80 percent in 2001”.  That is partly due to the fact of rapid immigration into western states, but it also reflects the difficulty that disproportionately poor immigrant families encounter in moving out of gateway cities into predominantly white communities.  Several studies show that banks and real estate agents still consistently discriminate against African American and Hispanic families seeking loans for small businesses, mortgages, rentals, or homes to buy.  Others show that black Americans receive poorer medical care for heart attacks than do whites, pay more for a new car, and receive longer sentences for the same crimes compared with white felons. White voters still usually decline to elect nonwhite politicians, and corporations are in no danger of appointing a disproportionate share of executives who are not native-born whites.  Perhaps the starkest evidence of persistent white racial domination is the fact that the more nonwhites there are in a state (or, in some studies, in a prison system), the harsher the criminal justice laws and the greater the likelihood that felons remain disfranchised for life.

            In short, one can paint almost any portrait of current intergroup relations in the United States, and of their trajectory over the past few decades, with solid evidence of a variety of kinds. The complexities do not stop here, however; the analytic categories used to explicate and evaluate intergroup relations are almost as multiple and contradictory.

 

How Should We Understand Groups, and Explain Intergroup Relations?

            Some scholars, as represented by the data I described above, focus on large, panethnic groups, as implied by the terms black, white, Asian, and Latino. They endeavor to answer the analytic question of how these large aggregates relate to one another.  These scholars, like activists in the communities themselves, often combine this analytic choice with a normative value or political calculation; that is, they seek for evidence of a strong sense of unity or linked fate across nationalities because they perceive racial identity to be a core value, or they judge that in the American political system, groups have more political and policy influence if their numbers are larger and they are spread across a wider geographic area. (On panethnicity, see research by Felix Padilla, Yen Le Espiritu, and Pei-te Lien, Margaret Conway, and Janelle Wong.)

Other scholars or advocates, however, argue that this level of aggregation obscures more than it illuminates and disadvantages small groups. For example, relations between African Americans and the increasing numbers of black immigrants may be at least as tense as those between “blacks” and whites, as demonstrated by fierce political battles over representation and status in New York City.  Nicaraguans and Cubans in Miami similarly perceive little in common; Nicaraguans resent Cuban political, cultural, and economic dominance that is hidden by the category “Hispanic” or “Latino.”  The popular image of Asian Americans as a model minority obscures the fact that some immigrants (such as Hmong, Laotians, and Cambodians) suffer from higher rates of poverty and unemployment than any other nationality group in the United States.

Disaggregation can obscure overall patterns of intergroup relations as well as illuminate nuances and critical pockets of inequality and alienation from other groups.  Aggregation highlights crucial trajectories but leaves variation around the central tendency murky.  There is no intrinsically correct choice appropriate for all analyses of intergroup relations; nevertheless, the different choices can themselves become politically and normatively fraught.

A deeper source of analytic confusion and political contestation in the study of intergroup relations is the question of what is a race or an ethnicity, and whether (if they are different), a given group should be understood in racial or ethnic terms.  Some argue that race and ethnicity are conceptually distinct. Race in this view is commonly defined, correctly or not, to have a biological component. Most of its members can be differentiated visually from other races, it is usually a large group encompassing a variety of more specific ethnicities, and it is stable over a long period of time.  An ethnicity, in contrast, is defined in this construction to be smaller, usually less sharply bounded and more fluid, and constructed more by a shared culture, language, religion, history, and geographical homeland.  Others, however, argue that the analytic distinction between race and ethnicity is a conceptual or political obfuscation. Both terms delineate separation among groups; both can have roughly the same political and social connotations or effects; both groups can have more or less porous boundaries depending on context and history; both are socially constructed categories with shifting boundaries whose linguistic evolution can be traced over time.

Depending on how one conceives of race and ethnicity, one is likely to emphasize different features of intergroup relations among old and new Americans.  If Latinos are understood mainly as an ethnicity, or a loosely bounded set of ethnicities, it is not hard to find evidence of positive connections.  Argentines and Cubans in the United States are disproportionately white in appearance, and arguably face few group-based barriers in relating to non-Hispanic whites once they overcome language differences. More generally, scholars who argue that new American immigrants are assimilating into the social, economic, and political mainstream roughly as immigrants did a century ago tend to think in terms of porous ethnicities that may eventually be as malleable as “Polish” or “Irish” is today (for example, see works by Richard Alba and Victor Nee, Michael Barone, and Joel Perlmann)

Conversely, if Latinos are perceived mainly as a distinct race, or if one understands intergroup relations in terms of racialization of new immigrants rather than assimilation, it is equally easy to find evidence of hostile or harmful intergroup relations. Mexicans, Dominicans and Panamanians are disproportionately nonwhite in appearance, and arguably face individual and systemic discrimination and prejudice.  More generally in this view, scholars such as Ian Haney López and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argue that Hispanics are best understood, despite some exceptions, as a single group whose status lies slightly above blacks but well below native-born whites in the American racial order. Similarly, even though Asian immigrants speak different languages and come from distinct religious and cultural backgrounds, Claire Kim, Mai Ngai, and other scholars argue that native-born Americans perceive them to be a single race distinguished mainly by their ineluctable foreignness. As permanent foreigners, in this view, they are all to be mistrusted, kept at arm’s length, and denied political power and economic authority despite “minor” internal variations.

The relationship between race and ethnicity, and the question of which term best describes new immigrant groups, is linked to another conceptual choice essential for studying intergroup relations.  Should groups be understood, as in this essay so far, solely in terms of race or ethnicity?  Perhaps not; gender, religious faith, economic standing, immigrant status, sexuality, or political ideology may do more to define what group a person is “in” as do race or ethnicity.  If class differentiation is growing within racial or ethnic groups, as William Julius Wilson argued several decades ago, people might develop relationships based more on their material interests than on their cultural ties.  Or if divisions deepen between those who seek a purely secular government and those who want public life to reflect Christian values, then people’s allegiance may no longer be predominantly racial or ethnic. Or perhaps groups are best understood in geographic terms.  For example, Mark Warren shows how the Industrial Areas Foundation seeks to get urban residents of all racial and ethnic groups to work together in pursuit of improvements in their local neighborhoods and schools. Organizers hope that eventually a unified sense of community (and often religiosity) will override divisions of race, ethnicity, or anything else. At a higher level of abstraction, the intergroup dynamics in the American southwest -- where Hispanics, like whites, have been immigrating for centuries and are now a majority in many communities -- will be very different from those of the northeast, where the two oldest groups are African Americans and whites and where many different populations are converging. 

How one understands the connections between racial or ethnic identities and other allegiances will affect what one expects to happen in intergroup relations over the foreseeable future. If the central dynamic appears to be the substitution of a new intense identity (say, religious faith or political ideology) for racial or ethnic solidarity, one would expect connections across groups to remain difficult but less hierarchical, more amenable to entry and exit, and perhaps open to cross-cutting loyalties.  Alternatively, if one judges the trajectory to be movement toward an array of less intense identities, or toward commitments with more room for compromise and negotiation than racial ones typically have – if, for example, new Americans increasingly focus on their economic well-being or improvements in their local community – then intergroup relations could become more negotiable and cumulative.  Conversely, if one expects new Americans to be socialized into the American racial hierarchy (whether by becoming honorary whites, or through segmented assimilation, or by some other means), then high levels of immigration will be expected to reinforce rather than undermine the traditional American racial order.

A final conceptual complication lies in the arena of motivation which is, in turn, linked to the disciplinary background used to evaluate intergroup relations. Economists expect calculations about material interests to be central in shaping a person’s actions.  So economists search for evidence on whether the black or Latino middle class is growing and acquiring capital, moving to communities with better returns on housing investments, or seeking jobs in mainstream firms with higher payoffs to educational investments.  They might then anticipate improved intergroup relations, at least within the affluent segment of the population, on the grounds that negotiation promotes acquisition more than hostility does.  Psychologists, however, work from the premise that intergroup relations stem from psychological dynamics of perception, categorization, attraction, or fear. They would search for evidence on whether, as African Americans or immigrants move into a community, current residents feel threatened individually or for their group, judge that the newcomers did not really earn their status, or include them in a new conception of the neighborhood.  Anthropologists focus on cultural practices, and will consider how much newcomers seek to retain their traditional values, maintain links with the home country, or assimilate into mainstream or countercultural American behaviors.  Which direction they and their children choose to move, and how their practices are received by the native-born Americans, will strongly affect whether intergroup relations become clashes among values or enlightening windows into another way to view the world (or both).  Finally, political scientists analyze the drive for power within a given structure.  They will attend particularly to structural and institutional factors, such as whether voting is districted or at large, whether political parties have incentives to mobilize or exclude new immigrants, and whether there are electoral or policy advantages to organization along ethnic or racial lines, or along some other cleavage.

In short, what a person brings to the study of intergroup relations – one’s political ideology, disciplinary lens and methods, definitional arsenal, and substantive goals – will all affect what one sees in that study. And given that intergroup relations are genuinely confusing if not contradictory, the complexities multiply rapidly.

 

Types of Intergroup Relations

I propose to overlay this complexity with two organizing patterns. The first focuses on how one evaluates the nature and quality of intergroup relations by providing several plausible templates for “good” interactions.  Given constraints of space, I focus here only on political, or more broadly public, coalitions or alliances.

One understanding of good intergroup relations in the public arena accords with the old cliché of “politics makes strange bedfellows.”  In the ideal type of this coalition, participants identify particular shared interests, and seek a pragmatic interracial or interethnic alliance. The underlying logic is that small groups must ally to have any hope of victory in a political system that rewards voting majorities and extensive resources; their motto might be Benjamin Franklin’s, “we must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Log-rolling coalitional leaders do not expect given racial and ethnic groups always to ally with one another. The coalition’s longevity depends on whether interests consistently coincide and whether the groups develop successful working relationships; it may dissolve after a single law is passed, or be reborn to pursue the next piece of legislation.  Examples include black inner-city ministers who provided the staunchest support for President George W. Bush’s initiative to expand faith-based social services, or Latino activists who allied with Republicans and conservatives in California to abolish what they perceived to be a failed and stigmatizing program of bilingual education in public schools. 

In the ideal-typical interest-based coalition, participants work around most of the conceptual issues raised above.  They do not care if their current allies are best understood as a race or an ethnicity, if their allies’ primary allegiance is racial or religious or something else, if they are motivated more by hope of economic gain or anxiety about a threatening Other.  Participants also work around many of the empirical contradictions raised at the beginning of this essay.  They are fairly indifferent to individuals’ level of stereotyping or tolerance, so long as negative feelings do not interrupt the workings of the group.  They also do not concern themselves with issues of intermarriage or other emotional and personal ties; they may even ignore instances of discrimination so long as such behavior does not keep coalition members from accomplishing their tasks.  The coalition succeeds -- and therefore group relations are “good” -- if it accomplishes its clearly-defined goal.

The ideal-typical opposite relationship in the public arena is an alliance organized around deeply meaningful identities. Such a relationship is not only a means to win a political victory or pursue economic interests but is also an arena for carrying out moral commitments and attaining personal and collective fulfillment, even transformation. The group expands expand by seeking allies with the same commitments and identity-based self-understandings, and it is expected to last for years if not decades in quest of  a powerful vision. Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres, for example, argue that  “racialized identities may be put to service to achieve social change through democratic renewal” by “build[ing] a progressive democratic movement led by people of color but joined by others”. Labor unions have begun to woo new Americans by focusing on immigrants’ rights and amnesty for illegal immigrant workers, while trying to teach immigrants to think of themselves as workers whose primary loyalty is to their fellow unionists.  Feminist activists wrestle intensely with the question of how to develop a sense of linked fate among women in the face of continued racial and class division and cultural divergences. Muslims from many countries seek to discover what elements of their faith they have in common despite differences in nationality, interpretation of the Koran, or daily practices.

In an identity-based alliance, the conceptual issues raised above have deep importance. Those who see a few racialized groups will seek different allies, perceive different opponents, and pursue different goals than those who see many ethnic groups or who expect people to align along dimensions such as economic class, religious faith, or political ideology.  Identity-based alliances give less credence to economic motives – whether as an explanation for action or as a goal to be pursued -- than to psychological, political, or cultural ones. They attend carefully to evidence of discrimination and stereotyping.  They perceive interracial marriages and other close personal ties as evidence of either betrayal or allegiance to the group rather than as a personal and idiosyncratic choice among individuals. The most prominent identity-based groups focus on aggregate central tendencies of a panethnic community such as “blacks” or “Latinos,” but many such groups form around particular nationalities or even subnationalities.

Overall, pragmatic coalitions tend to emphasize the more successful features of intergroup relations and try to ignore or work around the most intractable elements.  Identity-based alliances are more attentive to evidence of an underlying pernicious racial order and are usually less persuaded by indications of positive intergroup interactions or receptivity by the state.

These are, of course, ideal types; actual coalitions are unlikely to conform to all of the elements just described.  Interest-based groups can on occasion be adamant about not negotiating away parts of their program; identity-based groups may demonstrate pragmatic skill in a given situation.  Furthermore, intermediate forms of intergroup relations may combine features of both types. Two in particular suggest opposite trajectories over time.

Interracial or interethnic associations may be a transitional step from identity-based alliances toward pragmatic coalitions.  This is the political version of the classic sociological theory of straight-line assimilation, which occurs in three stages.  First, a recent immigrant is relatively poor, and “ethnic identification color[s] his life, his relations with others, his attitudes toward himself and the world.” Immigrants demonstrate a “high degree of political homogeneity,” and generally ally with similar others. Intergroup relations will be distant if not hostile.  Later, group members move toward greater heterogeneity, but “even the middling segments retain a high sensitivity to their ethnic origins.”  Intergroup relations will be touchy, but negotiable.  This is the era of candidate slates containing both an Irishman and an Italian, voting districts balanced so that blacks, whites, and Hispanics all have a good chance to elect a representative of their own group to a city-wide school board, or agreements among civic elites to let African Americans and immigrants run the schools while native-born whites retain control of the downtown business district.  Eventually, in the third stage, descendents of immigrants are very heterogeneous socially and economically, and “ethnic politics is often embarrassing or meaningless.”  Individuals now engage in pragmatic coalitions, or identity-based politics along some other cleavage than race or ethnicity.  Intergroup relations simply matter less to them (quotations come from Robert Dahl’s classic work Who Governs?; see also Richard Alba and Victor Nee’s Rethinking the American Mainstream).

A final theory, of segmented assimilation or racialization, suggests the opposite trajectory.  The logic here is movement away from initial, exploratory pragmatic coalitions based on fluid intergroup relations toward intense, even hostile, encounters organized around identities fixed by the racial order of the United States.  When immigrants first come to the United States, they think of themselves in terms of their nationality or their local community.  They are prepared to engage in pragmatic coalitions with members of other groups as needed to attain jobs, legal status, English language ability, and other necessities.  Over time, however, according to this model, many immigrants and their children come to see themselves in terms of aggregated American racial categories, either because they change their own preferred identity or because race is forced upon them by native-born Americans and the social, economic, and political orders.  Once they are racialized, new Americans are more available for identity-based alliances.  (On segmented assimilation, see research by Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou, Ian Haney López, and Mary Waters.)

Thus ideal types of intergroup relations, and theories of how groups move from one to another of these models, gives us some purchase in understanding the empirical and conceptual complexities of contemporary American ethnic and race relations.  A final pattern completes the picture, at least for this overview.

 

Fluid Identities and an Enduring Racial Structure

Intergroup relations can seem strong, constructive, and growing because many individuals, especially new Americans, believe that they have a great deal of flexibility in defining who they are or will be, and how they want to relate to others.  The high and growing rate of intermarriage is both an indicator and a cause of this autonomy, as is the almost universal commitment of universities and public schools to a curriculum of multiculturalism.  Popular culture, especially in cities, celebrates eclectic mixtures of food, fashion, music, and media.  Fewer than 3 percent of respondents on the 2000 census identified with more than one race, but much higher proportions of the young and well-educated did so; they may be a harbinger of the future.  Sober scholarly publications such as Migration News, a quarterly compendium of information about migration around the world, matter-of-factly suggest, “it is possible that, by 2050, today’s racial and ethnic categories will no longer be in use” (April 2004).  Americans have always redefined themselves, so the stereotype goes, by shucking the past, moving to a new place to start a new life, and being “self-made;” new Americans may be doing just as occupants of covered wagons did a century and a half ago.

            But this vigorous exercise of fluid self-definition by individuals and even groups may rest on a deep and apparently immobile racial structure – the existence of which provides the evidence for weak, hostile, and stagnant intergroup relations. Blacks or dark-skinned Latinos remain poorest, least well educated, most likely to be unemployed or exploited, least well-represented in the political arena, and most likely to be arrested. Affluent African Americans are almost as racially segregated as their poorer counterparts; the racial achievement gap in education persists for middle class as well as for poor children. In an earlier work (Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation), I showed that many blacks, especially the well-off, continue to believe that other Americans are deeply and irremediably prejudiced against their race, and that the racial order will not change.  Some new Americans, especially those who are dark-skinned, are unwillingly joining African Americans at the bottom of the historically-rooted status hierarchy.  Individuals are mixing and allying with people in different racial/ethnic groups, but racial hierarchies themselves remain pretty firm, at least to those caught up in them.

 

The Future(s) of Intergroup Relations      

We cannot tell at this point how the conflicting evidence on intergroup relations will evolve over the next few decades.  Possibly the United States is in transition from a rigid racial structure to a fluid system of Madisonian democracy, in which for the first time in history, almost all adult citizens can participate in the social, economic, and political systems and can develop alliances as they wish.  That situation is surprisingly new. African Americans and Latinos have been formally full members of the polity for barely a generation, about fifteen percent of the time that the United States has been a constitutional republic. Asian immigrants have been allowed citizenship for barely two generations.  The new Americans are coming into a society that is very different from the one that the last great wave of immigrants joined – and the new Americans are themselves changing the society even more.  If in fact the United States is currently in the middle of a transition from a racial order to full Madisonian factional democracy, that would explain the contradictions in the evidence on intergroup relations and the complexity of the concepts we must use to explain them.

Unfortunately, however, another and less optimistic prediction can also make sense of the extant evidence.  Possibly most of the new Americans are altogether too much like the old immigrants, such that they are on the way toward becoming “white” – or at least not black – and are simply moving up the ranks of the traditional, unchanging racial hierarchy.  A few new Americans are simultaneously moving down the ranks, into blackness or at least the low status and dismal prospects that most African Americans have experienced for most of the history of the United States.  Transformation of the status of individuals and groups, but not of the structure within which they are ranked, would also explain why intergroup relations look strong and positive from one vantage point (the top down) but weak and hostile from another (the bottom up).

            At this point in American history, we cannot tell whether the optimistic or pessimistic trajectory of intergroup relations is the most plausible.  The evidence is too mixed; the concepts with which people approach the evidence are too fixed; regions, states, and localities have too many particular dynamics to permit many generalizations.   Most importantly, how new Americans become incorporated in the United States is a matter of politics not yet engaged in, with new leaders, different ideas, changed party dynamics, unstable immigrant streams, and unsettled electoral outcomes.  There is genuine contingency in the intersection between politics and the American racial order -- which will shape and be shaped by new Americans.

 

 

List of Suggested Readings

Alba, R. and V. Nee (2003). Remaking the American Mainstream:  Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2003). Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham MD, Rowman & Littlefield.

Guinier, L. and G. Torres (2002). The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy. Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.

Haney López, I. (1997). "Race, Ethnicity, Erasure: The Salience of Race to LatCrit Theory." California Law Review 85: 1143-1211.

Lien, P.-t., M. M. Conway, et al. (2004). The Politics of Asian Americans: Diversity and Community. New York, Routledge.

Orfield, G. and C. Lee (2004). Brown at 50: King's Dream or Plessy's Nightmare? Cambridge MA, Harvard University, Civil Rights Project.

Padilla, F. (1985). Latino Ethnic Consciousness: The Case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago. Notre Dame IN, University of Notre Dame Press.

Portes, A. and M. Zhou (1993). "The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science(530): 74-96.

Rogers, R. (2004). "Race-based Coalitions among Minority Groups: Afro-Caribbean Immigrants and African-Americans in New York City." Urban Affairs Review 39(3): 283-317.

Warren, M. (2001). Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy. Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press.

Waters, M. (1999). Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities. Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.