Divided Society: The Ethnic Experience in America

Divided Society: The Ethnic Experience in America

Divided Society: The Ethnic Experience in America

Divided Society: The Ethnic Experience in America

Excerpt

To some extent this book opposes what I have called the "Handlin School" of ethnic studies. I use that phrase because I believe that the perspective represented by Oscar Handlin, and by many students of ethnicity and immigration who followed him, has been detrimental to our real understanding of American society. At the same time, I would not minimize Handlin's achievement: he presented a marvelously human— though grandiose—vision of the American ethnic experience in The Uprooted and in his succeeding work, which reinforced the American Dream after years of war, disunity, and terrible domestic persecution. Furthermore, he has not been —by any means—as narrowly tied to his own early formulations and perspective as have his disciples. Indeed, many a young revisionist historian has acknowledged his debt to Handlin. And as the reader may see in "The Goals of Integration" (in Appendix II, p. 334), Handlin has recognized, with foresight, the real ethnic issues at stake in platforms for "racial integration."

My challenge to Handlin and his School is that I do not see evidence for believing in the continuing progress of America's historic democratic destiny, nor am I able to justify the human costs that the School is willing to pay for such progress. This book is an attempt to reinterpret, and thereby clarify, what has become a conventional misunderstanding.

The anthology is organized thematically. "Assimilation and Mobility" suggests the complexity of the accommodation process, the inclusion of blacks within it, the standards which have dominated, and the personal agonies involved.

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