The Bicentennial provides a major opportunity for recognition of “ethnic America.” During this time significant studies and evaluations have been produced to clarify hitherto obscure or neglected contributions of many ethnic groups to the nation’s birth and development.
Two hundred years of American statehood have given us an American civilization that has grown with contributions of millions of immigrants from over one hundred different cultures producing our nation’s pluralistic heritage. This American heritage is not accidental; its roots are in the diversity of the American experience and in the freedom to foster the many voices of that experience.
The American society was already a “mosaic of peoples” at its beginning, as reflected by the first United States Census in 1790. Germans, Dutch, French, Swedish together with people of British origin were building a new nation. At that time, as today, settling in America did not result in erasing cultures but in relocating them. Therefore, significant progress was possible, and major gains were made toward gradually making American democracy a living reality for each settler. It is not easy to comprehend the heterogeneity of American society and its cultural, social, and economic forces that influence the behavior of many ethnic groups. For this one needs a sound knowledge of the actual accomplishments of each group in order to see in its totality the problem that America faces.
It is easy to argue, as some distinguished scholars do, that ethnic diversity is “bad” and that it can be “dangerously divisive.” But this argument does not contribute to the solution of the problem, because ethnic groups will not vanish. We have to acknowledge the ethnic groups because they do exist in our society, develop, grow culturally and therefore present a unique social problem. And this is the ethnic diversity because America is a varied nation—“a nation richer in its heritage by the very fact of its variability.” We are fortunate to live at a time when American society is no longer infatuated with the unrealistic “melting pot” theory and recognizes the value of every ethnic group’s contribution to the society. Here mention should be made of the passage of the Ethnic Heritage Studies Programs Act of 1972. Its “Title IX-Ethnic Heritage Program: Statement of Policy” reads:
In recognition of the heterogeneous composition of the Nation and of the fact
that in a multi-ethnic society a greater understanding of the contributions on
one’s own heritage and those of one’s fellow citizens can contribute to a more