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66 Chapter Four Images and Actions: Contending with Stereotypes and Discrimination Different races and nationalities differ widely in the details of their conception and practice of life. —Robert E. Park and Herbert A. Miller (1921) Stereotypes are substitutes for real knowledge—which is never of anything so simple or permanent as a particular generalized image of foreigners. —Isaiah Berlin (2001) Japanese by blood, hearts and minds American, with honor unbowed bore the sting of injustice for future generations. —Inscription on memorial in Washington, D.C. Akemi Matsumoto Ehrlich, The Legacy THE CONCEPT OF immigrant, like immigrants themselves, comes with baggage . At the conceptual level, this additional weight consists of meanings associated with the targeted group. Some of these meanings are obvious and literal, as in thinking about an immigrant as someone who is new to the country, whose first language may be something other than English, who probably has relatives living in another country, and so forth. Other meanings, as we have seen, involve beliefs about the motivations and intentions of immigrants or the perceived impact it is thought they will have on the country of destination. More sharply focused than these images of the generic immigrant are specific beliefs about certain groups of people, defined by their country of origin. From this perspective, not all immigrants are alike in the eyes of the host. Instead, group-specific stereotypes become a set of distinctive frames through which immigrants from differing parts of the world are viewed. Moreover, these frames have consequences: immigrants are not only thought to be different from one another, but are treated differently as well. Who they are thus becomes shaped by what people think they are, attesting to the interactive dynamic that defines the immigrant experience. It is these issues of stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination , and their consequences that I now consider. IMAGES OF IMMIGRANTS Our seemingly irresistible urge to characterize, often in highly personal and dispositional terms, those who are different from us has been evident in studies of immigration from the beginning. As early as 1911, an official commission on immigration produced the Dillingham report, A Dictionary of Races and Peoples (Jacobson 1998). Forty-five separate immigrant groups were recognized (thirty indigenous to Europe), and all were characterized in racial, physical, and dispositional terms. The Bohemian’s brain, for example , was said to be the heaviest, and the Jewish nose more prominent than other immigrant noses. Shifting to psychological turf, the commission commented on the savage manners of Serbo-Croatians, the individualism of southern Italians, the high-strung nature of the Poles, and both the affability and the suspiciousness of Sicilians (Jacobson 1998). Less physical determinism and more social context is found in Park and Miller’s Old World Traits Transplanted, which was published ten years after the Dillingham report.1 This book marks one of the first extensive discussions of immigrant characteristics, as perceived and reported by the social scientists involved in the early University of Chicago research projects. Park and Miller presented their work as objective observation, not as the creation or application of cultural stereotypes. In reading their work through a twenty-first century lens, however, the line between objective observation and subjective interpretation seems fuzzier than they acknowledged. As noted, Park and Miller began with the assumption that “different races and nationalities differ widely in the details of their conception and practice of life” (1921, 2). At the same time, these authors suggested that differences might mean little to the American community, which “shows . . . a contempt for all the characteristics of the newcomers” (61). Persisting in their aim to document differences, Park and Miller offered a typology of six kinds of immigrants, each defined in terms of the motives or goals that Images and Actions 67 presumably influenced their move to the United States and their attitudes toward assimilation. These designated types included the settler, whose move was typically precipitated by economic crisis and whose major goal was to “secure an existence”; the all right Nick, an opportunistic type who wanted to pass into the dominant group; and the intellectual, a type that Park and Miller saw as misadapted to the United States with no marketable skills. These general functional descriptions then yielded to more stereotyped images of specific nationalities. Consider the colonist, for example, a group the authors described as maintaining memories and values of their home country rather than assimilating with the new country (at the same time believing that they were...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781610441537
Related ISBN
9780871540867
MARC Record
OCLC
794701253
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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