By Kristen Lynn
Even after reading Samuel Huntington's cautionary "The Hispanic Challenge," an excerpt from his 2004 book Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity, I am confident that the dominant American identity is here to stay.
In the article, Huntington warns the nation's citizenry that as a result of thriving Latin American "political and linguistic enclaves," America faces the imminent threat of cultural divide and confrontation over the fundamental identity of the country. He goes so far as to say that Hispanics have the potential to "challenge the existing cultural, political, legal, commercial, and educational systems" and foresees resistance in the form of a new "White Nationalism."
As a multiculturalist and hispanohablante, I was inclined to react to Huntington's argument with the following, callow response: So what? Why is this impending cultural transformation a problem?
A quotation presented by Huntington as evidence for burgeoning Hispanic influence, however, offers a different insight. Huntington cites a Hispanic man explaining his situation in Miami. "Here, we are members of the power structure," he remarks. This man's use of the descriptor "here" discredits Huntington's generalizations about the future of the American identity.
It is an unfortunate truth that outside of a handful of cities like Miami, Hispanics are not members of the national power structure. Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority in the country. Still, Hispanics make up only five percent of the 111th Congress of the United States; there is one Hispanic governor in the country. White, Christian men continue to dominate our political system and business community despite notable progress in terms of racial, gender, and religious equality. America is not a nation of rich, white men. Why, then, are our representatives this way? Clearly, influential America has not strayed too far from its Anglo-Protestant foundations.
Huntington affirms that the reconquista of the Southwest United States is underway, that Miami is the prototype, and that this region could become the country's Quebec. He fails, however, to recognize that numbers do not equal power, and that in this country, it is power that matters.
By Kristen Lynn, Master of Public Policy Candidate, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.
From mid-April to mid-May 2010, selected students from Professor Katherine Fennelly's course "PA5452: Immigration and Public Policy" are sharing thoughts on their readings with IHRC readers.