Assimilationcan be regarded as the process by which a person or persons gets andinculcates in himself or herself the social and psychologicalcharacteristics of a different group of individuals. Differentauthors have defined the concept of immigrant assimilation throughvarious approaches. Gordon Milton (1964) in his book entitled,“Assimilationin American Life”explores the different dimensions of assimilation depending on whathe observed to be the indicators of the process of assimilation.Milton breaks the concept of assimilation into seven steps that heargues occurs in roughly in a sequential order.
Thesteps described by Milton include cultural assimilation as the firstone, which involves the acquisition of the cultural practices of thehost community. This is followed by structural assimilation, which isnow the full entry into the systems and institutions of the hosts.Marital assimilation where the intermarriages begin to take placeforms, the third step and identification assimilation comes next. Itinvolves the people assimilated starting to identify themselves withthe hosts exclusively in all their activities. Attitudinal receptionattitude comes immediately after identity. At this point, the personwholly becomes part of the hosts without any prejudice. Behaviorreceptional assimilation, which marks the absence of discrimination,is the sixth step. Finally, the process is completed with civicassimilation which symbolizes the lack of power and value conflict.This is the Gordon’s conception of immigrant assimilation. (Gordon,1964)
Intheir book entitled, “GeneralExclusions”Telles and Ortiz (2008) critically look at the subject of immigrantassimilation through a long observation and studies of the MexicanAmericans and their assimilation. Telles and Ortiz (2008) examinedthe factors that had inhibited the full integration of Mexicanimmigrants in America. They observed that despite several years inAmerica, a good number of them were still living among the low class. In this is observation, they attributed to the failure by Americaninstitutions to give the Mexican-American equal opportunities ineducation as the whites. Also, the problem was not that theimmigrants were not ready to integrate the American social andcultural values but rather a failure of American institutionsparticularly public schools to incorporate the Mexican immigrantsinto the system as was the case of European immigrants (Telles andOrtiz, 2008).
Theseassimilation theories prevailed at different times, and they were areflection of the different social economic and political system ofthe time. Gordon’s (1964) concept focused on the process theorywhere he outlined the seven steps involved to achieve a fullassimilation. According to Gordon (1964), this was a linear processthrough which the immigrants would be incorporated into themainstream practices of the host. This concept has been criticized asit fails to accommodate the influence of the immigrants on thehosting society. Moreover, it makes an erroneous assumption that thisprocess would achieve full assimilation and fails to recognizeunassimilable groups.
Tellesand Ortiz (2008) ideologies support the theories of modernassimilation and segmented assimilation theories. The segmentedtheories are an analysis of the experiences of the immigrants whocame from non-European countries. It examines the social and culturalviews of the immigrants upon their arrival and the conversion of thediscriminatory practices suggested or practiced by the hosts thatwould affect the immigrants. The segmented theory studies thetreatment of immigrants in the labor market this is the concept thathas been used to study the overall immigration and theirincorporation. The success of this theory is that it provides avoluntary transition that enables the immigrants to be cushioned withsupport that will be necessary for incorporating them into themainstream more comfortably.
Theimmigrant assimilation concept advanced by Gordon Milton can apply tothe Mexican immigrants as presented by Sanchez. Sanchez (1995) writesabout the history of Mexican immigration to Los Angeles in the 20thcentury. He studies the struggles of the Mexican community toidentify themselves with the ethnic and cultural practices of thepeople of the Los Angeles. He goes ahead to examine the efforts byboth the American and Mexican institutions during the same period infighting for the identity and loyalty of Mexican immigrants. Thewhite American moved with speed to try and assimilate the Mexicans inwhat was termed the “Americanization of the Mexicans” by teachingthem English as well as trying to transform them culturally toconform to the whites. Back in Mexico, the Mexican governmentintroduced a “New Nationalism” that was aimed at attracting theimmigrants back home, however, this also backfired (Sanchez, 1995).
Inapplying the Gordon’s concept that outlines the steps for fullassimilation, the process would have started by cultural assimilationwhere the whites would have cultured the Mexican immigrants to makethem acquire their cultures. This would be followed by structuralassimilation where they would be included in the systems of the whitehosts. Marital assimilation would then follow to allow forintermarriages. This would be the peak of the assimilation as therest would quickly fall in place. Identification would then followwhere the immigrants would now identify themselves with whitecommunity in the Los Angeles. Behavioral and attitudinal receptionassimilation would then fall in place.
Gordon.M.M. (1964). Assimilation in American Life: The Role of Race,Religion, and National Origins. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sanchez.J.G. (1995). Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture andIdentity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. New York: OxfordUniversity Press.
Telles.E.E. & Ortiz. V. (2008). Generations of Exclusion: MexicanAmericans, assimilation, and race. New York: Russel Foundation.