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n 117 CHAPTER 10 The Good News Compared to other countries, the United States, through luck or skill, has been able to embrace its immigrant population with relatively few problems. “In general, Europe, which has never developed an immigration culture, seems to have been less successful than the United States at integrating foreigners and giving them a stake in a new national identity,” says Richard Bernstein. “At the same time, European immigrants seem to have been less eager than immigrants to the United States to take on a new identity, instead adhering to their traditional identities, languages and customs for generation after generation.”1 Peter Ericson, who wonders what it takes to become a Swede, has observed that, unlike in his own country, “you move to the U.S., you say that you want to be an American and you embrace the basic values that anybody can do. That’s about it. Then you are an American. Here in America there are all kinds of colors. Some of the people emigrated from Iran in the 1980s, some of them from Ireland in the 1700s, and everybody is American.” Stanley Crouch explains what assimilation means. In spite of all the talk of multiculturism, “assimilation is not, as advocates of separatism would teach us, a matter of domination and subordination, nor the conquest of one culture by 118 n Chapter Ten another. On the contrary, it’s about the great intermingling of cultural influences that comprises the American condition: the fresh ideas brought forward in our folklore, our entertainment, our humor, our athletic contests, our work places, even our celebrity trials and political scandals.” He claims, in fact, “that American society is now so demonstrably open to variety, and so successful at gathering in those who would join it, that it is the international model of a free and progressively integrated nation.”2 Chicago’s Devon Avenue, the center of the Pakistani community in that city, may in some ways resemble similar neighborhoods in Britain, but residents spell out the difference. Nizam Arain, a native Chicagoan of Pakistani descent, says, “There is integration even when you have an enclave. . . . You don’t have the same siege mentality.”3 Although the British may give lip service to the importance of their immigrants, the fact is that the chances for success are much greater in the United States. “Britain remains far more rigid,” says the journalist Neil MacFarquhar. “In the United States, for example, Pakistani physicians are more likely to lead departments at hospitals or universities than they are in Britain,” and “nationwide, Pakistanis appear to be prospering.” Unlike the British, we are unburdened by a “collective history here of frustrated efforts to assimilate into a society where a shortened form of Pakistani is a stinging slur, and there are no centuries-old grievances nursed from British colonial rule over what became Pakistan.”4 Yet another “major difference between the United States and Britain, some say, is the United States’ ideal of being a melting-pot meritocracy.”5 As for France, according to Robert A. Levine of the RAND Corporation: The central difference—between the United States and France and between France’s past and its future—lies in numbers. France absorbs individuals into its classic culture; until the current ingress of North African Muslims, it had not experienced mass immigration, and neither its beliefs nor its policies have adapted to the new wave. The United States has absorbed mass migrations over a several-generation period and has continually adapted its own culture and policies. The difference does not make either country morally or politically “better” or “worse” than the other, but American practice is likely to preserve its essential institutions; unless France changes direction, the difference may lead to dire consequences for that admirable nation.6 “‘You can keep the flavor of your ethnicity, but you are expected to become an American,’ said Omer Mozaffar, 34, a Pakistani-American raised here who is working toward a doctorate in Islamic studies at the University of Chicago.”7 Ihsan Alkhatib, who is president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, thinks we could teach Europe a thing or two. He compares the European The Good News n 119 experience of “residential segregation, low high-school graduation rates, and high unemployment rates” to the situation in the United States, “where Muslim-Americans are better off economically than many Americans. Western Europe,” he says, “needs to learn from the U.S. how to accept and integrate...


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