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Cultural similarity

The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture is the dominant culture in the United States. This partially explains why immigrant groups sharing similar ethnic backgrounds have been accepted more readily into the mainstream of American society (Zastrow, 1992, p. 235). The typical White Anglo-American knows very little about cultural differences among Latin American countries or immigrant Hispanic groups. Lack of knowledge, as well as convenience, motivate them to lump all Hispanic immigrant groups into one category. Cultural differences among Hispanic groups may not be significant predictors of economic success in the United States. The average American does not know such differences and traditionally Anglos have discriminated against Hispanic immigrant groups based on race more than based on culture (McLemore, 1991, p. 31). Cultural differences, however, help explain why Anglo-Americans seem more accepting of Hispanics than of non-Western or non-Christian immigrant groups (Schaefer, 1993).

Acculturation and assimilation

Considerable confusion is associated with the concepts of acculturation and assimilation. These two concepts are often used interchangeably, especially outside of academic circles. For the purposes of our discussion, however, the definitions of acculturation and assimilation shared by Gordon (1964), Marger, (2000) and Yinger (1981) will be utilized. As a classic on the subject of assimilation, Gordon’s work has served as reference for the scholarly work of numerous social and behavioral scientists.

Acculturation has been defined as the process through which the values and behaviors associated with a person’s culture of origin are gradually replaced with the values and behaviors associated with a new culture (Gordon, 1964). According to previously mentioned authors, assimilation means full inclusion of an immigrant group into the mainstream of a host society. Assimilation means accepting the members of the incoming group as equals. Members of assimilated groups have lost their original cultural identity and are now considered simply “Americans”. Hyphenated labels such as Mexican-American, Latino, Latin-American, Hispanic or Hispanic-American are not used to refer to assimilated groups since, once assimilated, they become indistinguishable from the dominant group. An implication of being part of an assimilated group is that its members can enjoy equal access to all the rights, privileges and resources the host country has to offer. Assimilation implies giving up their previous cultural heritage and identification in exchange for equal access to power, privileges and resources. This helps explain why some immigrants desire assimilation while others do not. The dominant group in any society must choose to assimilate or include the incoming group into its mainstream in order for it to happen. The desire of an incoming group to become assimilated alone will not produce the desired outcome (McLemore, 1991, p. 8). Huntington’s (2004) arguments strongly suggest that the White dominant group in the United States has not decided to accept Hispanics as equals partly because they feel threatened by the growing presence and influence of the Hispanic community in the country.

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Source:  OpenStax, Immigration in the united states and spain: consideration for educational leaders. OpenStax CNX. Dec 20, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11150/1.1
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