Race Prejudice and Discrimination: Readings in Intergroup Relations in the United States

By Arnold M. Rose | Go to book overview

with the exception of its adjustment to the singular pressures imposed on this group because of our great "American Dilemma."


11. The Immigration Policy of the United States *

Carl Wittke

[ Although this country was created and developed by immigrants from Europe, there gradually grew up a pattern of discrimination against immigrants from many European countries. Racist prejudice, originally directed only against the Negroes, became directed also against whites when they had nationality and language backgrounds different from the dominant groups. Antiforeign sentiment developed even before the middle of the nineteenth century, but it reached its greatest expression after the beginning of the period known as the New Immigration. The new immigrants were persons who came from southern and eastern Europe rather than from northern and western Europe, which had been the home of most of the early settlers in this country. Carl Wittke, the eminent historian of immigration to the United States, analyzes this phase of the history of American bigotry. ]

Immigration added a total of 38 million to the American population. The number of immigrants who passed through the gates of New York in a single year in the quarter of a century preceding World War I was greater than all the barbarian forces that brought about the fall of the ancient Roman Empire. New York and other metropolitan centers became a modern Babel of tongues, and the ethnic complexity of many of our American cities has become an important feature of our present-day civilization.

Until after the close of the First World War, the gates of this American land of liberty and opportunity stood open and practically unguarded to all who had the courage to risk the great adventure across the Atlantic. Keeping the gates open was a deepseated American tradition. It was part of the vision of American democracy to welcome men and women of every national origin who wanted to share the peace and prosperity which this country had to offer. Here they might shed the burdens and the strife of the Old World, and join with all men of strong muscles and

____________________
*
From The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 262 ( March, 1949), 5-14. Copyright 1949 by The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Reprinted by permission of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

-96-

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