American Ethnic Politics

American Ethnic Politics

American Ethnic Politics

American Ethnic Politics

Excerpt

My interest in ethnicity and politics in the United States was kindled first by contact with two of America's most distinguished political scientists, the late V. O. Key, Jr. of Harvard and the late Peter Odegard of the University of California, Berkeley. Key was interested in racial politics; Odegard wrote on religious politics; both encouraged my interest in ethnicity.

Ethnic groups have more intrinsic interest for me than other kinds of groups. It seems to me that ethnicity lies closer to the essence of men's lives: their fears, hates, loves and other passions. While one's sense of being is shaped by many factors, including the strictly psychological, I have come to believe increasingly in the persistent power of cultural forces. It also seems to me that democratic politics in America has bad a special relationship to ethnicity. It is often through the process of politics in the United States that ethnic pride is given expression; but it is also through politics that group tensions are ameliorated and conflicts of interest are accommodated. Democratic politics enabled the election of a Catholic to the Presidency of a country whose political institutions were founded on explicitly anti-Catholic assumptions. The politics of democracy has facilitated the nomination of Jews to the Supreme Court of the United States and their election as governors and senators in a predominantly Christian and often anti-Semitic nation. It has been through democratic politics that immigrant peasants from alien cultures in eastern Europe, China, Japan and Spanish America often have found a renewed sense of identify and strength in the land of their adoption. It may yet be that democratic politics will provide a way of justice for black men which will make the United States of America the first successful essentially biracial nation in history.

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