How Mexican-Americans assimilate into U.S. culture

Donald Trump’s election has unleashed a flood of animus against Mexican-Americans.

Within 24 hours of the election, Mexican-Americans across the nation (along with many other racial, ethnic, religious, and LGBTQ groups) were being verbally and even physically attacked. A novelist friend of mine tweeted a criticism of Trump and a stranger threatened him with deportation. Similarly sad, demeaning and terrifying stories are erupting all over social media.

The hostility percolates down to the most intimate levels. A lovely man joked that my son was not patriotic enough to use equipment emblazoned with an American flag but not to worry, they would not deport him.

At a friend’s school, 8-year-olds teased their Mexican-American classmates that they could be deported. Parents said it was just “kids being kids.” Many perpetrators don’t think they are racist or insist they are just joking. But the message is clear: “You don’t belong here.”

What we are seeing is the reanimation of longstanding stereotypes — what I call “racial scripts” — that present Mexicans as unassimilable, criminal, even diseased.

We like to describe ourselves as a melting pot nation. Immigrants, we say, can learn our language, appreciate our culture, and adopt our values and ultimately “become” American. This has been the script for white ethnic immigrants, even those who faced discrimination, such as the Irish, Italians, and Jews.

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