Orlando Patterson, the well-respected Harvard sociologist, wrote an article in the New York Times this week in which he argued that immigrants from Latin America and Asia will assimilate into mainstream American culture (whatever that might be) in the same way as European immigrants from the late 19th and early 20th century had. Maybe he’s right. Although social scientists have argued that Latino and Asian immigrants will not be able to assimilate as rapidly as Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants because the former are not white, there is some evidence suggesting that the children of Latino and Asian immigrants are assimilating quite well. They tend to be English-dominant (many do not speak or understand their parents’ native language), they have high intermarriage rates (with whites primarily but also with other groups), and many reside in integrated or predominantly white neighborhoods—all indicators of assimilation. Many Latinos (approximately 50% according to Patterson) also self-identify as white, suggesting that their experiences might not be that different from those of European immigrants.
These facts notwithstanding, many Latino and Asian-American scholars would disagree with Professor Patterson’s assertion. They would point to continuing discrimination and evidence of implicit biases against Latinos and Asian-Americans and the widespread perception that these groups are not “really American,” as illustrated by the question “no, where are you really from?” when a person who does not look Black or White says that he is from Texas, California, or Kansas.