New Roots in America's Sacred Ground: Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in Indian America

By Khyati Y. Joshi | Go to book overview
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Introduction

The post-1965 wave of immigration—the largest in U.S. history—has brought an infusion of color that is challenging traditional understandings of race and racism, the so-called straight line assimilation theory of ethnicity, and the normative place of Christian traditions in society and religious scholarship.1 After nearly half a century during which immigration was available only to people from the predominantly Protestant regions of Europe, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 opened the gates for a wave of immigrants from beyond the Judeo-Christian pale. Indian Americans were a major segment of the first wave. Alongside the growth in racial diversity that followed the 1965 Immigration Act has come a dramatic increase in America's religious diversity. The increasing presence of followers of non-Christian faiths such as Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism has reverberated nationwide in urban, suburban, and rural America. The influx of new immigrants and "new" faiths requires us to reconceptualize the relationship among ethnicity, race, and religion and the impact of each on the individual. Moreover, every immigrant generation is followed by a second generation, born on these shores but raised in the ethnic home environment, in the dominant society of neighborhood and school, and in a space of their own in between. This book addresses second-generation religious experiences and identities not in a vacuum but rather in the specific and unique context of ethnicity and race in the United States.

America is changing how it categorizes people. Throughout history, those who were different—the "them" as distinct from "us" (the majority)—were made an "other" and had their differences racialized. The Irish and the Jews, to name two major constituents of the last great wave of immigration, were thought of as racially different, until this view was finally overwhelmed by the force of white skin and social mobility. Nearly half a century after the Civil Rights Act was passed, more than half a century after Brown v. Board of

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