Essay: Immigrant US History

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U.S. Immigrants

The Black and Mexican Experiences During and After World War I

The United States of America, and indeed the entire continent of North America, has been a place of racial and ethnic boundaries that create a sense of those that belong and those that do not -- of people and of "others," to put it in a more extreme manner -- ever since Europeans first arrived on the shores of the continent. The indigenous peoples of the continent, the various tribes known as Indians and then as Native Americans, were the first to be displaced and made into "others," but the African slaves and their descendants and other people that inhabited the land either through immigration or through historical existence would undergo similar experiences as the nation grew (Takaki 2008). This creation of outsiders was not limited to the decades and centuries of the populating of the continent by the European-descended immigrants, but persisted even after the borders and development of the United States was well-established, with various racial and ethnic identities having unique experiences at various points in this nation's history.

The experience of blacks in this country has been studied and commented upon quite extensively; though brought here by force they were long treated as unwanted intruders (Takaki 2008). This began to change somewhat during the period of World War I and immediately following, when African-Americans both served in the military and were accepted into industrial jobs in major cities to fill the labor shortage created by massive shipping of troops to the European front (LOC 2008). This led to a renewed celebration and assertion of African-American culture in artistic and literary avenues immediately following the war in the period known as the "Harlem Renaissance," a period which demonstrated the new pride and a certain level of integration into popular culture through the definition and dissemination of African-American culture itself (LOC 2008).

The experience of Mexican immigrants during this period was similar to that of African-Americans in some ways, but was drastically different in others. The same labor shortages in the United States that were caused by World War I and led to the movement of many African-Americans to cities for new employment opportunities also allowed Mexican nationals to immigrate over the border in order to fill these jobs, first in the fields and eventually in a variety of other industries (Vogel 2004; Takaki 2008). Even in the period immediately following the war, which was still a quite prosperous time for the United States, these workers were largely accepted as a necessary part of the labor industry and the economy, but never really integrated into society due to continuing language barriers and a sense of ethnic "difference" (Vogel 2004). When the Great Depression hit at the end of the 1920s, suddenly these "foreign" workers that had been in the country for a decade (and that had rightfully occupied much of the Southwestern and Western United States less than a century before) were no longer welcome, and a massive expulsion of ethnic Mexicans -- whether they were recent immigrants or not -- typified the 1930s (Vogel 2004).

In contrast to the African-Americans, who found new pride and new opportunities for staking a permanent claim in the country through the labor opportunities provided by World War I, Mexican immigrants were welcome only as long as they were useful. Without the time to build up a true culture as Mexican-Americans, and with strong ties to family that loved so close and yet so politically and culturally different, there was no real integration for these individuals. Both groups would continue to experience discrimination in the ensuing decades, and their trajectories during this time largely defined those issues.

References

Library of Congress. (2008). "African-American odyssey." Accessed 29 October 2010. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aointro.html

Takaki, R. (2008). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (Rev. ed.) Boston: Little Brown Company.

Vogel, R. (2004). "Stolen birthright: The U.S. conquest and exploitation of the Mexican people." Accessed 29 October 2010. http://www.houstonculture.org/hispanic/

The Impact of World War II on Various Ethnic Groups

World War II was a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Immigrant US History.  (2010, October 29).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/immigrant-history/371645

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"Immigrant US History."  Essaytown.com.  October 29, 2010.  Accessed May 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/immigrant-history/371645.