1/Lately I've been reading a ton of books about immigration and diversity. The most recent one is "Americanism in the Twenty-First Century", by https://t.co/neqzyYVaYS

What" target="_blank">@debbiejsr.


What did I learn?

2/This book is not very "pop". It's a dry political science book that's basically a concatenation of several research papers, all based on one big survey that was done in 2004. https://t.co/efr9BUENHl
3/The survey, the 21-CAS, asks people about how they define their own identity - race, national origin, and/or "American".

It also asks them about what they think being an "American" entails.
4/Basically, the survey asks people about 5 types of "Americanism":
1. Feeling like an American
2. Believing traditional American values like freedom
3. Civic participation (voting, etc.)
4. Multiculturalism vs. blending in
5. Being white and/or Christian
5/I edited out a few others (e.g. being born in America, being a citizen, speaking English). Anyway.

The upshot is that except for being white/Christian, most of these definitions of "American" get broad endorsement from all groups of people surveyed.
6/Only 17.4% of survey respondents said having European ancestors was important for being an American. 34.9% said being a Christian was important.

In comparison, 96.9% said respecting other people's cultural differences was important for being an American.
7/In addition, pluralities of all the big racial (or "pan-ethnic") groups - whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asians - identified as "Americans" first and foremost.

whites - 89.4%
blacks - 52.3%
Latinos - 53.6%
Asians - 47.3%
8/For black people, racial identification was also common (41%).

For Latinos and Asians, national-origin identification (e.g. "Mexican", "Chinese", etc.) was common (28.2% for Latinos, 36% for Asians). Many of the people choosing national-origin identity were foreign-born.
9/Some more numbers for what people thought it means to be an American:

Letting other people do what they want - 87.8%
Carrying on the cultural traditions of one's ancestors - 72.7%
Blending into the larger society - 73.4%
Pursuing economic success through hard work - 90.7%
10/Some of these bear repeating.

The % of people who said "carrying on the cultural traditions of one's ancestors" is crucial for being an American was FOUR TIMES as large as the % who said "having European ancestors" was important!
11/Also, almost everyone surveyed (94.1%) agreed that being able to speak English was important for being an American. And 93.7% said having American citizenship was important.

That should quiet the fears of the Huntingtonian nativists...
12/What's more, the conception of what it means to be an American basically didn't vary across races.

This means that at least in 2004, most Americans thought of themselves as "Americans", and most agreed about what that meant.
13/After establishing these basic facts, the book correlated different conceptions of Americanism, and different self-identities, with various policy preferences and with perceptions of discrimination.

This approach has at least two big methodological problems...
14/The first problem is that since such large majorities of people agree on what it means to be an American, there isn't much variation in the data.

The second problem, of course, is telling correlation from causation. This is just a survey.
15/But a few interesting facts really jump out.

For both Latinos and Asians, national-origin identity disappears across the generations, and American identity increases.
16/Note, though, that for Latinos, racial ("pan-ethnic") identity also declines, while for Asians it does not.
17/Next, for both Latinos and Asians, the more people experience individual-level racial discrimination, the more they tend to identify with their racial and/or national-origin group rather than with America.
18/Now, there's an obvious correlation/causation problem here, namely that people who identify more strongly with their racial group might also be the type of people more likely to feel they're being discriminated against...
19/BUT, interestingly, there's not much correlation between Latinos' and Asians' identity and their perceptions that their racial GROUP is discriminated against in America.

It's only INDIVIDUAL-level discrimination that correlates with feeling less American.
20/This suggests that individual racial discrimination is the biggest danger for national unity in the face of large-scale immigration.

In other words, we need less of this crap: https://t.co/jrB8vKexwR
21/We need absolutely ZERO of this crap: https://t.co/XiCJOLqqRA
22/Not even a little bit of this crap!!!

23/The data in "Americanism in the Twenty-First Century" strongly implies that if it weren't for asshole racists giving nonwhite Americans a hard time, we would have national unity.
24/Even WITH racists running around being assholes, most Americans of all races feel American, and we still all have broad agreement on what it means to be an American (at least, as of 2004).

But, we can do better.
25/If you see a racist giving someone a hard time or yelling "Get out of my country" or some such bullshit, shut them down immediately.

For the sake of common human decency, but also for the sake of the country.


More from Noah Smith

When Republicans started to believe in racial bloc voting - when they stopped believing that nonwhite people could ever be persuaded to vote Republican - they started to see immigration as an invasion.

This explains why immigration is now at the center of partisan conflict.

Of course, the belief in ethnic bloc voting becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When a slight Dem tilt among Hispanics and Asians caused the GOP to turn against them, Hispanics and Asians shifted more toward the Dems. Etc. etc. A self-reinforcing cycle.

Bush's 2006 amnesty attempt, and the 2013 intra-GOP fight over immigration reform, were two moments when the GOP could have turned back to the approach of Reagan, and courted Hispanics and Asians.

But they decided against this, and...here we are.

What will disrupt this bad equilibrium, and save American politics from being an eternal race war?

A) More white voters will grow disgusted with the GOP approach and defect, or
B) The GOP will find some non-immigration-related issues to attract more Hispanics and Asians.

As long as both parties see elections in terms of racial bloc voting - where the only way to win is to increase turnout among your own racial blocs or suppress turnout by the other party's racial blocs - American politics will not improve, and the country will decline.

1/I'm thinking about the end of Apu in the context of the national debates on immigration and diversity.

2/Apu's presence in Springfield represented a basic reality of America in the late 20th and early 21st century: the presence of nonwhite immigrants.

3/As Tomas Jimenez writes in "The Other Side of Assimilation", for my generation, immigrants from India, China, Mexico, and many other countries aren't strange or foreign. On the contrary, they're a

4/But that America I grew up with is fundamentally ephemeral. The kids of immigrants don't retain their parents' culture. They merge into the local culture (and, as Jimenez documents, the local culture changes to reflect their influence).

5/Simpsons character don't change. But real people, and real communities, do. So a character who once represented the diversity that immigrants brought to American towns now represents a stereotype of Indian-Americans as "permanent foreigners".

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