Today, we continue the discussion of Samuel Huntington's "Who Are We?" (see part I here), focusing now on his view of communities within the United States, and their cultural identities (for a more specific view of their relationships to language, watch for "Huntington contra Nunberg", later this weekend).
Various authors have interpreted hyphenated identities as either a sign of a genuine blending, or as a sign of separatism. Prof. Huntington views hyphenated identity descriptions in a generally benign manner, although it's clear that his preference would be for U.S. citizens to self-identify simply as Americans. As he writes of the transition from "black" to "African-American":
[B]lack leaders in 1988 expressed their preference for the term "African-American" instead of "black" because the former "deemphasizes race, focusing instead on culture and ethnicity." "African-American" was not racially polarizing, and instead identified blacks as simply one of many groups in american society, comparable to Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, or Japanese-Americans. "To be called African-American," Jesse Jackson said, "has cultural integrity."
Huntington actually ties the rise of hyphenated racial identity towards the increase in individuals who self-identify as "multiracial", and observes that, in many ways, race is becoming less of a factor among Americans, as intergroup marriage becomes more pervasive across most ethnic and racial groups. Simultaneously, judging from the change in census statistics from 1980 to 1990, there have been both sharp increases in the number of people declining to state an ethnicity for themselves (although many answer "white" instead of Anglo/Italian/German/etc.-American, where the declines are observed), and the number who answer "American" without any hyphen. Huntington's point in raising these facts is that among the crowd assimilating fully into American society, consciousness of ethnic and/or racial identities distinct from identity as American is diminishing, and that this is a long-term trend. To the extent that these people feel a need to distinguish themselves from larger American society, the hyphen signifies that American identity is nevertheless a core part of their self-image.
The hyphens contrast with the ampersands, communities which retain considerably more consciousness of a foreign identity; Huntington defines them as people with "two languages, two homes, and possibly two loyalties". Huntington spends a considerable amount of time discussing the evolution of the notion of "dual citizenship", an alien notion to the legal traditions of the British empire, and an often disfavored one in the history of American jurisprudence. This is an important detail for Huntington, because his views on what constitutes a coherent national identity are very much a matter of finding those things within America that are not merely fluid and changeable. Historically, citizenship was viewed as both "exclusive" (one person, one citizenship) and "perpetual" (naturalization simply did not happen); these notions were explicitly enshrined in a legal opinion known as Calvin's Case in 1608, with the formulation "Once a subject, always a subect". As Huntington observes, the young United States rejected perpetuity in 1795 with the passage of its own immigration laws, where naturalization was first legally defined; interestingly, while recognizing the right of expatriation for foreigners from that date, the U.S. recognized no similar right for its own citizens until ratificiation of the 14th Amendment in 1868. Legal recognition of an end to perpetuity has never coincided with an end to exclusivity, however, and to this day the naturalization oath requires renunciation of foreign citizenships. Importantly to Huntington, this renunciation is largely formal at present, and many naturalized citizens retain foreign allegiances, leading to the ampersand phenomena.
Early in the book, Huntington distinguishes between immigrants, who leave one country expecting to be absorbed into the culture and lifestyle of their destination, and settlers, who seek to recreate the home to which they owe their allegiance in some new territory. Although immigrants in name, Huntington's ampersands are very much settlers, a phenomenon which must be noted is not all that recent in the American experience (but which should be kept distinct from the pre-Founding fact of all European descendants being settlers). Consider first the experience of German immigrants to America. Huntington notes that in the eighteenth century, Benjaimin Franklin wrote vigorously against attempts by German settlers to set up German as an equal of English in the eyes of the Pennsylvania government (noted by Mark Liberman as well, and perhaps vitriolically inspired by the previous failure of his attempt at marketing a German-language newspaper in 1732). Similarly, battles were fought in the 1800s over the right of German communities in Wisconsin to conduct their children's schooling in German, a struggle which ended only with the passing of a law in 1889 mandating English-only schooling in that state.
Modern ampersand communities are exemplified by a variety of behaviors constituting both formal and informal ties with the immigrants' homelands. On the informal side, the industry of remittances -- wiring money earned in the United States back to family in other countries -- is estimated by Huntington to have sent some $10 billion abroad in 2002; last year, the total surpassed $13 billion to Mexico alone. On the formal side, some foreign governments encourage immigrants to the United States to think of themselves as members of a diaspora, and issue documentation identifying them formally as citizens of the foreign country in question. Huntington is worth quoting in full on the matricula consular card issued by the Mexican government to certify that said government recognizes the bearer as a "resident" of the United States, a term which sounds like the "resident alien" status legitimized by "green cards", but has no standing under American law:
Legal Mexican immigrants have no need for a matricula consular Possession of such a card, consequently, is presumptive evidence that the bearer is in the United States illegally. Acceptance of that card by American public and private institutions cedes to the Mexican government the power to give to illegal immigrants the status and benefits normally available only to legal residents. A foreign government, in effect, determines who is an American. The success of the Mexican matricula consular prompted Guatemala to start issuing them in 2002, and other homeland governments have been rushing to follow.
Huntington overdramatizes the case here; although he is correct that legal immigrants have no need of such a card in order to be recognized by American institutions -- and would presumably be more likely to show other documentation in preference to the matricula -- the Mexican government will happily issue such cards to anyone determined to be a Mexican citizen residing in the United States, without regard to their standing in American immigration law. This should not preclude recognition of the fact that Huntington is correct on the essential point; acceptance of the matricula as documentation to apply for college admissions, or for government assistance, constitutes nullification of either the citizenship requirements accompanying those benefits, or of the immigration laws.
The ampersand phenomena results, in Huntington's phrasing, in the creation of a "single transnational community", most dramatically typified by places like Jamaica Plain in Boston, a neighborhood whose residents represent members of fully 2/3 of the families of Miraflores in the Dominican Republic. Huntington cites a sociologist named Peggy Levitt, who writes:
Because someone is always traveling between Boston and the island, there is a continuous, circular flow of goods, news, and information. As a result, when someone is ill, cheating on his or her spouse, or finally granted a visa, the news spreads as quickly in Jamaica Plain as it does on the streets of Miraflores.
Similar examples include the Mexican town of Chinantla, where fully half of the town's 5,0000 residents some 20 years ago now live in New York City, or the town of Casa Blanca, Mexico, where some 3,000 residents -- from a population of 5,800 -- relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the 1990s alone. Huntington cites several more such examples, and notes that there are additionally as many as 2,000 "hometown associations" linking transplanted Mexican communities in the United States to their original homes in Mexico.
The proliferation of Latin American examples might lead the reader to believe that Samuel Huntington has a problem with Latin American immigration in particular, but that mistakes the particulars for the general case being made, which Geoff Nunberg aptly recognized in his vigorous reply to the Foreign Policy article that underlies Huntington's discussion of immigration. In criticizing Huntington, Prof. Nunberg writes that "the real problems with Huntington's arguments aren't so much factual as conceptual and ideological". And indeed, Huntington's concerns in Who Are We? aren't directed towards individual bilingualism as a marker of lacking an American identity (which Nunberg reproves him for in critiquing the Foreign Policy article), nor even towards the notion that Chinatowns or Little Tokyos might manifest an excess of pride verging on foreign allegiance. They are, however, directed towards the construction of an ideology of Americanism -- and might readily be mirrored in the construction of an ideology of "Frenchism" or "Germanism" -- and are framed in the search for substantial features of an identity that can be made salient to all Americans. Thus, we will next turn our attention to Huntington's views on bilingualism, their contrast with Geoff Nunberg's, and their respective implications for what it means to be American.