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Posted on Thu, Feb. 26, 2004
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT
Racists will love new 'Hispanic threat' book
http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/andres_oppenheimer/8043803.htm

 

Racists in America must be having a field day: At long last, they have found a world-renowned intellectual -- Harvard's Academy for International and Area Studies Chairman Samuel Huntington -- to rationalize their resentment against America's rapidly growing Hispanic community.

Huntington, whose 1993 book The Clash of Civilizations was later credited for having foreseen the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, says in his forthcoming book Who We Are (Simon & Schuster) that the United States is threatened with national disintegration because of the soaring rate of Hispanic immigrants.

''The single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants,'' writes Huntington, in excerpts of the book posted on the Foreign Policy magazine website .

''Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture?'' Huntington asks. ''By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanics) and two languages (English and Spanish.)'' The magazine website is

www.foreignpolicy.com.

Before I tell you why I think this is pseudo-academic xenophobic rubbish, let's look at Huntington's supporting arguments: He says Mexican immigrants differ from other immigrants in that they are not assimilating into the U.S. mainstream culture, and that they may one day reclaim the territories that Mexico lost during U.S. military invasions in the 19th century.

CAUSES OF ALARM

He is alarmed by the fact that the ratings of Spanish-language television stations have surpassed those of English-language ones in Miami, that ''Josť'' has surpassed ''Michael'' as the most popular name for newborn boys in California, and that Mexican Americans cheer for Mexico in U.S. vs. Mexico soccer matches.

Huntington sees ''a major potential threat to the country's cultural and political integration.'' Mexico may one day try to ''assert special rights and claims to that territory,'' he writes.

Poor Dr. Huntington. Watching America from his Bostonian observation deck, he is getting real nervous about the erosion of what he defines as America's ``Anglo-Protestant culture.''

But, as seen from Miami, where a majority of adults speak a language other than English at home, his idea that Hispanics pose a threat to America is absurd.

In Miami, many immigrants don't speak English, but their children eventually do.

You saw as many American flags as in any other U.S. city after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the city has become a center of international trade and services precisely because it is bilingual and bicultural.

And where is it written that people are biologically limited to speaking only one language?

Anybody who has traveled through Europe knows that the Swiss, Danes, Swedes and others speak two, three and sometimes four languages.

And Huntington's claim that Mexican Americans pose a bigger threat than Cuban Americans because they are more reluctant to assimilate is simply wrong.

Every time I go to Los Angeles or San Antonio I'm amazed by the number of people with names such as ''Juan Gonzalez'' who don't speak Spanish.

ASSIMILATION TREND

According to a new nationwide study of U.S. Hispanics by the Synovate market research company, the actual trend among Hispanics is toward greater assimilation, despite the new waves of Spanish-speaking newcomers.

Over the past 12 years, the number of unassimilated Hispanics -- those who don't consume English-language media -- has decreased from 40 percent to 26 percent, the study's authors say.

''Most Hispanics, about 63 percent, are bilingual and bicultural,'' says Jim Forrest, the study's director. ``These people are extremely comfortable in both languages. It's a group that has accommodated and has learned how to live in the United States taking the best from their host culture and keeping the best from their home culture.''

If you are wondering whether Huntington's arguments are just misguided, or plainly Hispano-phobic, I suggest doing this little exercise: replace the term ''Hispanic'' in the text with ''African American,'' or ''black,'' then ask yourself what would be the reaction of the black community. I assure you that civil rights groups would call for national protests against Harvard University and Simon & Schuster, as they should do in this case.

 


 

 

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