Immigrants, Ethnicity, and Challenges in the US

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1132
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

History of immigration of the United States and nature of ethnicity

The United States of America is a multicultural country in terms of race and ethnicity. The country comprises 6 officially recognized races, namely, Whites being the racial majority covering 73 % of the United States’ population, African Americans, who make the larger percentage of the minority, Indians, Asians, Native Hawaiian, and others who include Pacific Islanders. The U.S is recognized internationally to be a country of classic immigration; it has had difficulty in limiting the number and type of immigrants who make their way into the country.

The United States of America was originally one of the British colonies and at that period immigration was the main source of slavery. The South was preoccupied with the production of cotton; the white colonials in this region used the blacks as slaves to work on their cotton farms. It is considered that roughly 11% of the African American population during that time had received long-awaited freedom, but at the same time, they still had to face discrimination mainly from the whites.

Between the periods of 1776 to 1865 a record of 10 million immigrants was reported and continued to rise sharply. Immigrants lived in the worst conditions and were also doing the worst jobs; as a result, this led to one of the worst ethnic wars in American history. In the year 1875, and Immigration Control Act was put in place that restricted access of the Chinese, diseased, mentally ill, prostitutes, and most criminals to the country.

Later between the years 1880-1924, the second wave of immigrants was evidenced in the US. This time they were from South and Eastern Europe mainly comprising people from Russia, Poland, Spain, and Italy. Most of these immigrants were poverty-stricken, they were forced to live in houses that were considered not suitable for humans to live in. In addition to these, they were discriminated against while trying to find jobs and, consequently, they suffered extreme poverty, increased child mortality, and most of them were illiterate.

Between the years 1840-1924, the first wave of Asian immigrants was experienced who were flowing from China, and only a small number was allowed to cross the border of the country. Other Asians that were migrating were the Japanese between 1870-1924, who settled as rural farmers and worked under contract in the U.S farms.

Race/ethnicity and changes that have occurred over time

One’s race is mainly determined by the phenotype, which is the external physical appearance and genotype being an internal appearance in terms of heredity. However, in most cases and everyday life race has always been identified by phenotype, in other words, one’s external physical appearance. From the extensive immigration in the U.S, four major races were identified, mainly, the whites who originated from Europe and Russia, blacks who originated from Africa, Asian and Pacific Islanders who originated from Asia and Pacific Islanders, and the Indians who originated from India.

However, other minority ethnicities were not included as part of these races. They include the Hispanics, Asian Indians, Arab Asians, and other bi-racial people. This was mainly because it was difficult to draw differences in their physical appearance in a phenotypical way. Whites, who are considered to be the majority of the population, have continued to diminish in number, and in several decades to come they are going to be outnumbered by minority groups. Most people of European descent have mixed their cultures; some cultures have faded with time or they have been forgotten.

Differences in socioeconomic status and upward mobility of second-generation immigrant minorities

Differences in socio-economic status began shaping up in the early days of immigration. Whites that constituted the majority at that time were considered as the most important ethnic group. They enjoyed a great socioeconomic status in terms of wealth, education, and were associated with the American national identity. Being white had benefits, such as an ability to get high socioeconomic power along with the fact that they did not suffer discrimination like other ethnic minorities. The first immigration laws prevented minorities, such as the Chinese from migrating to the U.S. Blacks, on the other hand, were the minority ethnic group that was mostly discriminated against.

African Americans who were the oldest of the minority descent used to face a lot of discrimination from the whites. Most did unskilled labor and slavery work but with time the perception of being black has changed so nowadays they are treated equally since cultures have assimilated and there has been observed growing intermarriage in the U.S. Asian Americans suffered less discrimination compared to other ethnic minorities because of their skin color and the fact they were considered to be highly skilled professionals. Latin Americans were also less discriminated against as compared to blacks. Asian Americans, however, are still facing glass ceilings in trying to reach top positions.

Racism and discrimination have always been understood in terms of white/black relations. White Americans were blamed for the discrimination that was dominant in the early days. However, discrimination against ethnic minorities has proceeded to a new level, and most whites today feel they have nothing to do with the discrimination that took place in the past.

Blacks have been assimilated culturally in society within time due to intermarriages between different ethnic groups. African American socioeconomic status has dramatically improved in recent periods, particularly because of less discrimination and expansion in the black middle class since the 1960s. Another reason has been the narrowing of disparity between whites and blacks in terms of education.

The upward mobility of second-generation immigrants

The second-generation immigrants comprised the Asian Americans and the Latin Americans, who were considered to be ethnic minorities. A lot of pressure was put on the second-generation children to socioeconomically succeed since they were less discriminated against. Asian Americans have had upward mobility particularly because they were considered to be highly skilled professionally compared to other immigrants. They were considered to be the most successful among ethnic minorities. Their success is attributed to the fact that they were hard-working, excelled in school, and were always ahead without causing any conflict.

However, they still face challenges in trying to break the ceiling to top jobs and positions. In addition to these, they still face discrimination when trying to get intimate with other Americans. Latin Americans are considered to be less socioeconomically successful than Asian Americans being prominent in achievements, such as culture and entertainment, particularly sports and military. They are also less discriminated compared to the blacks hence they have had upward mobility socioeconomically. It is said that as long as they still exist in ethnic categories, discrimination will continue to persist in terms of race and socioeconomic inequality. Second-generation immigrants have also assimilated culturally and socioeconomically, which has made them more acceptable to society.