Race, Ethnicity, & Cultural Identity
|Issue Date: 7 / 2001
American Waves is an anthology of articles representing diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups in the United States. I selected readings that focused on ethnic experiences, heritage, and identity. They were organized to correspond to my lectures and the chronology of different waves of ethnic immigration to America that are found in Feagin and Feagin's text Racial and Ethnic Relations:
Pre-1600s --- Native-American Indigenous Peoples
1600s-1870s --- English, Germans, Scot-Irish
1600s-1800s --- Africans
1830s-1860s --- Irish Catholics
1850s-1880s --- Chinese
1880s-1900s --- Japanese
1910s-1990s --- Mexicans
1940s-1990s --- Puerto Ricans
1960s-1990s --- Recent Asians, Cubans, South Koreans,
For years, I used Feagin and Feagin's book because each chapter featured a different ethnic group. Although I am a sociologist, American Waves could be used by anyone who teaches college-level ethnic studies courses.
Since Native Americans are the indigenous population of the United States, they appear first in the book. "The Mescalero Apaches" focuses on a group hanging on to ancient religious traditions, which they share in special ceremonies with non-Indians. It discusses the centuries of broken treaties and the ordeal of life on reservations. However, through tourism and sharing rituals with other ethnic groups the Apaches have raised the consciousness of non-Indians. "Choctaw Gold" focuses on self-determination and cultural adjustments needed to survive, specifically, revenue sources derived from casinos and tourism.
"So Secure a Harbour" discusses the initial English presence and relationship with the Native Americans on the coast of Maine since 1605. The English wave of immigration following the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 forms the basis of our American culture, laws, and government. Israel Zangwill popularized the term "melting pot," which refers to the homogenization of all European-Americans.** The Irish Americans in "The Irish Way of Becoming American" could be considered a model for the melting pot concept of assimilation. However, the articles in American Waves demonstrate that some non-English Europeans have continued certain ethnic customs and practices that they are not willing to abandon. Although such groups do celebrate and share their cultural differences with others, the melting pot theory does not apply to everyone.
"Contours of Black Reconstruction" and "Things Change" focus on African Americans from slavery through reconstruction and the Civil Rights struggle. "Allons au Zydeco" explains how the Cajuns and Creoles consider themselves racially different, and how they are influenced by French, instead of English, culture.
The different Latino waves of immigration are featured in "Border Culture," "The Puerto Rican Journey," and "Legacy in Smoke." Three separate essays focus on the unique experiences of the Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Asian Indians. In contrast, a fourth Asian article, "Immigration and the Asian-American Experience," summarizes the general immigration experiences of all Asians since the 1960s. Additionally, religious freedom plays an important role in the immigration entries of both Jewish Americans and Arab Americans. "The Origin of Jazz" recognizes that the melting pot concept is also reflected in the blending of different cultures through music.
Finally, I would like to thank The World & I magazine for the use of these articles for this book.
* Joe R. Feagin and Clariece Booher Feagin, Racial and Ethnic Relations, 6th ed. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1999), pp. 66-67.
** Feagin and Feagin, Racial and Ethnic Relations, 6th ed., p. 462.
by Cathy L. James
Cathy L. James received her Ph.D in sociology at the
University of California at San Diego. She currently teaches
sociology of race and ethnic relations at California State
University, San Marcos. Dr. James also teaches introductory
sociology and is a member of the Cultural Diversity Committee
at Miramar Community College in San Diego.