Making Americans Response

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Making Americans Response

King should have given Making Americans the more appropriate title, “Constructing American Identity: The National Legacy of Race and Ethnicity.” The work tiptoes across a dangerous, four hundred year old minefield. Tackling American Identity always leads to a discussion of race. It is near futile to avoid. If steps on any of the sensitive mines, carefully concealed under a bushel of political correctness, the scholar must endure criticism and allegations from the various ethno historians that immerged in the 60s and 70s. Prior to this, the scholar, convinced that they squeezed the delicate pulse of American Identity, yet only slipped and stumbled into the pit of American exceptionalism where he found plenty of equally blissfully ignorant company.

He is correct to cite Tocqueville who was sure he had Americans figured. But he failed to properly include African American contributions, in fact, going out of his way to dismiss them. He is not alone. Benjamin Franklin comments on liberty and the building of self, but as a Middle Colonist has nothing to say about slavery in his definitive autobiography. Thomas Jefferson believed he had correctly identified American Identity in his Letters from a Virginia Farmer, but labels the African as inferior; and not the omission of American. Washington answered that he did not need to resort to the wretched African for military aid when pressed to allow the nation’s blacks to serve. Indeed our founding fathers may not be the best place to look to find national identifying answers.

Making Americans seeks answers by examining our history of racial exclusion and especially immigration policy to find answers. Immigration exclusion policies were certainly American respo...

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...iddle of the discussion and policy. It is between black liberty and white liberty, the definition of citizenship, the end of westward expansion, wars, and the depression. For these reasons, King is correct in making Immigration Policy a key point of examination when seeking American identity.

Late 19th and 20th century immigration policy was a reflection of how decision makers saw themselves and their society. Restrictions slowed the levels of equality we enjoy today and fueled grass roots movements for change. It shaped whom Americans viewed as being fit for integration. Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans, Blacks, and Native Americans all employed populist movements to affect change that might have occurred sooner and gradually if not for nativist policies. I am not sure if we have a national identity but Making Americans gives us another piece of the puzzle.
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