Gateway to ideas; Present-Day Immigration Waves
Gateway to ideas. The inner. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program present day immigration waves is moderated by Leo Ralston well-known author and special advisor to the editors of York magazine. Our guests are Pietro DiDONATO famous novelist and short story writer whose first book Christ in concrete has been translated into 20 languages. Its first chapter incidentally will shortly be published in a collection called The World's Best Short Stories. Mr. de Donato is written a biography of Mother Cabrini called immigrant saint and his latest book is called the penitent.
Our second guest is Dr. Seymour Yelland assistant professor of sociology at New York University who is especially interested in the religious and the class aspects of minority groups. The first thing that might be of interest to those of you listening in is that the three of us are all children of immigrants and that this is hardly a surprising event in that our country perhaps more than any in history is a country of immigrants. I think it was President Kennedy who said we are a nation of immigrants and Roosevelt before that who said every American. If you trace his ancestry back far enough is an immigrant the story of American immigration I think is one of the most fascinating stories in cultural history. And I think we ought to start out by sketching rapidly what happened in the United States which was such an extraordinary event in the history of mankind. We know of nothing quite like this immense movement of people from various parts of the world
to form a new nation on a continent which was virgin land which offered the opportunity for political experiment in a way that's never been done before. Dr. Yellin Why don't you bring us a little bit of historical background and sociological insight into the immigration movement into the United States. Well in terms of blocking out some rough time periods it's sometimes customary to refer to first of all the colonial immigration into the United States which you could roughly trace from say the founding of Jamestown and sixteen I was seven to say eighteen hundred. During roughly these two centuries the bulk of the migration into the country is from Northern and Western Europe. The whites let it in English the dash to the French to a lesser extent yes two thirds
roughly of the Europeans coming in at this time are from England alone. Of course it's also during this period that technically speaking you were also having the negro migration into the country though on an involuntary basis. It was that technically called immigration after all the negroes were brought here as chattel as pieces of property. They were brought in the way cargoes of goods were brought in yet they were human beings and they added to the human resources of this country. Now when you talk about immigration do you make a distinction between forcible entry into the country that is forcibly brought in literally as slaves and in chains as against people who came in voluntarily. Well in terms of trying to account for say the religious or racial or national origin composition of a society of course you would have to distinguish between the
migrants who came in more or less by choice and those who came in in voluntarily. So we would count the Negroes as migrants. Let's put it that way not immigrants perhaps not as immigrants. What is there any other group of whom you say this into the United States. No I think that all the other groups that came into the United States more or less came in by choice if you know of course you keep in mind that the the movement from the native land their holiday all sorts of Porsches. You mean like your dog contracts and inducements which turned out not to be true at all what about the Chinese poster didn't I know you have recently done a quite extraordinary piece on the Chinese in New York and you talk to a great many Chinese now. Did any of them come here really in the forefront being shanghaied in order to work out in
the West in the mines and on the railroads. No they really wanted to come here. I think of all the races they most more urgently wanted to become part of our society than many of the other minorities was. Why would they more than say the Jews who face persecution or the Irish who really were starving are the Germans a wonder religious freedom or the English. I think that their cultural background being much older and being familiar with the great migratory movements within their own Oriental sphere that they were familiar with with going to richer lands being basically an agricultural people and as you know with the gold rush in California
they were invited because. The immigrants that had preceded them suddenly felt Americans suddenly felt the new world and wanted immediate riches. I mean the Chinese immigrants. No no no the Irish and the Germans. Yeah this and that and they induced the Chinese to come but not long after they had arrived. Their ability to work to apply themselves constituted in the minds of the California people a menace. You know it's always interested me that in every nation and every population the incursion of cheap labor which actually benefits the society is regarded by so much as a threat. Well that's the paradox in a sense we might say that our great riches and expansion derived in a sense from from from prejudice or fear of of another minority. In communicability between the minorities are exploited
by the contractor by the by the boss man. And that way they could be kept apart in isolated and more hours gotten out of them. Worse conditions making making the great incredible profits of the tycoons and builders of the railroads and of the mines of the last century. Of course the Chinese undoubtedly were responding to terrible famine problems and overpopulation that was true also I think with some of the Western European groups but the thing that distinguished the Chinese is the way in which they have subsequently been treated or from the beginning goal business of treating them as people who are not even eligible for citizenship. Yes there are although they were originally welcomed as a source of cheap labor particularly with regard to the transcontinental railroad construction. When that was
completed 1860s and the 1870s combined with that completion was a general downturn. In business conditions in the West. Then you started to get traditional antagonism was developing towards the Chinese and in response to this antagonism which quite often took the form of physical violence because they displayed an interesting reaction pattern of special with a drawl into the Chinatowns of the larger cities. Going into particularly two lines of business restaurants and laundries where they reasoned there would be minimal competition was going to very small investment very small investment yes. And down to the present day they have remained
highly isolated group and they end the Japanese on the west coast where the subject. The particular form of racism directed towards the Orientals in terms of a whole set of notions of innate inferiority cheap labor and so on and were subject to extremely prohibiting legislation with regard to the numbers allowed to come in it's other groups of course face different outbursts whatever you had to depression or no you had an unstable social condition you begin to get these terrible manifestations of prejudice. People forget that in the south and some of the cities the Irish Catholics were really persecuted and beaten pretty badly. And in New York City very often the Irish were persecuted against as being undesirables and I suppose every new group that comes here with the exception of the English always had high status and were above all literate U.S. and well-educated. Well I always feel like I'm living in an English country because you speak English
and you're writing. Yes. Well I think it's safe to say that the United States is an English speaking country. I think I think we minorities brought passion with us and color. And of course we brought the Judeo Christian civilization we brought the arts and we're conscious of ourselves even as a Chinese I was talking about I was talking with. They say our great Jews are being held against us. The Chinese said yes we said our children don't appear in the delinquency courts. You don't find us a child with a Chinese derelicts on the streets. The family is the dominant social unit we're held suspect because we're an ethical and conservative people. Maybe they resent the color of our eyes the color of our skin. So you see in this glorious country there is there is a great deal of unpleasant realities. When you refer to this country being English yes it's
presence of minorities in the society indicates the presence of a dominant group. It was subjecting the minorities to this categorical differential. Yes I do and I feel my way are traditionally referred to of course as the wasps the white Yeah and Protestants. I feel more comfortable if the Italians are taken over after Columbus discovered it and yes beauty gave its name that we spoke Italian here. Why not. The Italians didn't do very much early immigration divorce already settled and that is now it was the English who started these and poles and so on. You said earlier something about Lee gave passion and so on. It would be interesting to trace for a moment some of the contributions that have been made to the richness of American life across every aspect of American culture that has been fed into the society by
groups from all over the world. There's nothing that I know like it do you. Well you know there's no doubt that you can trace a variety of instances say with regard to music and food and language and theater and without attempting to de-emphasize this I think we should also keep in mind that still in terms of the dominant basic culture patterns of the United States it's called. No Anglo-Saxon societies are. Yes despite a whole range of contributions to our society by members of each immigrant group. As there are two things I think that are interesting here. The concept of the law the Anglo-Saxon commitment to the common law to trial by jury to the system by which people's individual
rights are guaranteed. Is one of the dominant things that every group in the society has accommodated itself to and has benefited from that weve talked about the excesses riots and discrimination Nevertheless the laws remain pretty pure and dominantly Anglo-Saxon the whole political area you know is the way I hazarded an original question. And the fact for example there are 50 million Italians in Italy that will never see America. And so forth and all the other countries is the immigrant a certain type of person what kind of person he she is yes. Francis and I stood outside of St. Peter's with Carla Lavie Yes and he said America is wonderful. To make money but at least to live. When you have a holy seat like we have here for 3000 years come and talk to me that he said. He wasn't writing us down but he was just showing me other points and in the world spectrum it was the thing was that he what he was getting at
certain birds don't leave their nests. We are proud of and as we stay here now everybody can't emigrate. Yes there's the problem of whether or not there are consistent say differences personality wise between those who stay and those who emigrate. And this is still very ambiguous. One pattern which is clear cut though it's not a hard and fast rule is that those who migrate of course tend to much more often come from the bottom of the social scale that this privileged the stronger sense of steak and a set in their own mind that race and more adventurous spirit I'm afraid to move from Long Island to New Jersey. I recently came Hoboken but my mother couldn't read nor write nor my father. They came across the water. Why do you think they came. My father didn't want to be a soldier. He'd gotten married he was 18. The king sent him this wonderful invitation to become greeting soldiers and go to war in Ethiopia. And
and and he preferred romance and good eating and drinking self a lot and and there was America but of course many of the immigrants headed for America but they didn't know there was a Central America South America. Many of them ended up in the other Americas. There's a good deal of the Italian Flora went to Argentina. Yes. Yeah very flourishing colony there. But by and large economic considerations have bulked tremendously throughout history it's causing human my Gration from one place to another. Economic difficulties are the lure of better economic chances to eat and work and have your children eat and work. Plus I suppose the religious discriminations from which they were fleeing after all the Jews were being slaughtered regularly in Russia and in Poland and in Romania they had had hundreds of years of misery and they learned about this land where you were allowed to be a Jew. And presumably weren't going to be persecuted killed. The same thing was true of the Catholics who were having a rough time the same thing was
true of some Protestant groups. You know there's a very interesting book that was put up by Glazer in Monaghan called Beyond the melting pot which raises questions to which I think we can address ourselves for the second half of the program. The differences between the kind of immigration we had up to let's say 1930 or so or 1940 even up to the war and what has happened since then. And it's no secret to say that in the city of New York for example we're very much aware of the new kind of immigration because generally that means the Puerto Rican and the enormous encourage and at least a distinctly ordered proportionately of Puerto Ricans into the city of New York and all of the problems that that represents just the Puerto Ricans first are American citizens and they come here rather differently from the way that many other groups came. Would you care to talk about that. Well the phlox the great influx of Puerto Ricans into this country is essentially from 1945 on. Triggered off perhaps it seems crucially by the development of a low
cost ship and air transport between the Island and New York City. Perhaps it's a case of a historical accident to account for the flow into this city where the bulk of the migration has always gone and now it's estimated that the Puerto Ricans in New York City are somewhere between seven and eight hundred thousand in size although not all of that is migration and births occurring here accounting for a good deal of the the increase. You point out Mr. Austin they come in after citizens due to the fact that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth. This peculiar blend status to the country is neither a state nor a territory. So they come in as citizens. They have the advantage that many of them have been exposed to some degree of English in schools back
in Puerto Rico. But again you find a familiar pattern. They're providing a cheap labor supply and that has been so far their main economic function in the life of New York City. They also of course show the usual pattern at least in the first generation of the ghetto form. Dan Wakefield's book island in the city by the way is a pretty good journalistic account of every day life of a Puerto Rican in this city and I think it's a good deal of it's valid for other cities in which you now find colonies. People forget that this was true earlier you know when they get off the boat. German would be met by his relatives and would be taken to the German part of New York an Italian would be taken to the Italian part and so on. This is always been true because of the language problem because of relatives because of the newness of the land. You could find the
restaurants of your locality in a certain area in the case of the Puerto Ricans Of course this is intensified by the difficulties of finding housing. Yes this is something that comes out very well in Oscar handlin this book the newcomer but it's not only does he talk about the Puerto Ricans but also. The negroes who have come into the city after World War 2 and one very strong point of the book is the very item you mention that they are going through a pattern which you can see having occurred with previous immigrant groups there's a cycle here that affected the Irish the Germans and so on in terms of housing conditions alleged crime rates juvenile delinquency and so on. There is nothing especially unique. That's right. With regard to these two groups the immigrants are different today and that where whereas before it was a way that built up our society.
We could not have built America without them we needed them and then they came and they built. Of course of all kinds of sayings they said the Italians built America the Irish run it and the Jews own and so forth all kinds of cliches. Today we're faced with a what shall we do with the Statue of Liberty. We have closed our doors. We have we have justly been proudly preached our democracy. Now I predict that as nothing can stay still or we're going to have to do something like was suggested to me in Italy. My father didn't know anything about the president's or the laws or anything he just came. But today in Italy the average Italian knows all about our social security unemployment insurance benefits and everything else. And he certainly would love to be part everybody wants to be an American actually. So what he said to me why don't you make us the fifty first state. We're only 3000 miles
away a lie for our very look I never heard of that. So now now you see is this widespread sure. Yes yes now you see you see the little Mohammed came to the great mountain of America. But now I think the mountain's going to have to go out go to the hamlets of the world. How do you mean that was to do that. I mean that we're going to we're going to we're going to export or we're going to let's consider that our ideals and our our ethics and our psyche will be spiritual and ignorance. We cannot stay still if we don't do it. Communism will do it. And to some extent we'll begin exporting people. Yes it is inevitable for instance that was travel is easy it is and becoming as cheap as it is and with the awareness of all Americans about the glories of the rest of the World Travel has become an industry and more and more Americans are going abroad and as they get to go abroad we become far less I don't mean or I don't mean anything is as far out as the Muslims you know.
Let's say let's go back to the time of Queens and Albie and only importance on what let's flat form our own black world. But we're so close to each other. It is true I think too that there's been a great imagine ization in the United States it isn't only that you had millions of people from different societies come here but that the rate at which these people have formed a new type called the American Friends is the rate of intermarriage. With the exception I think of the Chinese Japanese and negroes So there certainly has been more cross breeding between Negroes and whites than many people in the south like to admit. But the rate at which there has been a crossing of racial lines and even now of religious lines has meant that you have really begun to create a cultural mosaic in this country such as I know of no parallel for in history. There have been these tendencies towards the so-called
melting pot then but only a tendency. You don't think there's been much melting. Well I think that the major trend the major trend has not been so much melting pot but what is popularly called Americanization which really means Anglo conformity. That is the major trend has been the shedding of the cultural patterns which the immigrants brought with them and adopting in most respects merely social patterns of white Anglo-Saxon vaudeville is a very good work. I think University Press put it out. I mean on Gotham. And he doesn't fly all over the nation just days with New York City because New York City is the gateway and he did a very good job on this American ization thing I agree with Mr. Ross.
There has been a homogenization What's the difference if I like I still love clams and skin jelly and eels and snails and wine. But I do obey the American laws. My sons are Americans married to scotch English woman. We have we have we have the so grave social aspects in common that's what makes us American. All I meant was that the chances of your having married a Scotch English girl in Italy were much much smaller. I'm married a fourth cousin or something that they literally related the literature of the country is very rich in stories about these experiences they remember a book called The Rise of David Linsky. Yeah he has a room just for it or the book has just been reprinted in paperback. Terribly sensitive book called Call It Sleep by him Lee Roth scribe's the life of a Jewish boy in the Lower East Side. Well I just finished a novel but in brief it's a sort of the Sistine
Chapel of Love attack American crime. This is Dean chapel of the letter puzzles almost a fable because because reality is so fabulous. Yes I mean the success the race for Fortune is measured by the results. And this is one of the problems that we have you know. Some of the some of the some of the qualities that my people brought with that show and as evidenced by the movies and all I can tell you is that it was something of a landmark in history for a popular song some years back to be called by Mir bist du Shane. The idea of a song with the fish title becoming popular is something my ancestors never dreamed possible or AB's Irish or Irish Rose is a play of course so that the infiltration culturally has been one which from my point of view at least means a rich society an awareness of difference and what is fashionably called
cultural pluralism. One last word before we go off the air Dr. Yeomans anything you want to answer. Well I was Mr. Dean Otto's mention of novels reminds me that you can get some insight for example into the Irish through something like O'Connor's the last Ferrar lovely book. Yes. Well I'd like to finish with this with a question mark. What will immigration be in the future. What impact will it have on our ever changing society. I would suggest that in 10 years we come here again and discuss that. You've been listening to a discussion of differences between past and present immigration waves. Our guests have been Pietro Dieter Nocturne novelist and short story writer. And Dr. Seymour Yellen assistant professor of sociology at New York University. My name is Leo rust and thank you for listening in and we hope you'll be hearing from us again very soon. You've been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are
discussed in relation to reading today's program present day immigration waves as presented Pietro DiDONATO the well-known novelist and short story writer whose latest book is The penitent. And Dr. Seymour yen an assistant professor of sociology at New York University. The moderator was you know Ralston well-known author and special advisor to the editors of Look magazine. To extend the dimensions of today's program for you a list of the books mentioned in the discussion as well as others relevant to the subject has been prepared. You can obtain a copy from your local library all by writing to gateway to ideas post office box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York. And please enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope right to box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York gateway to ideas is produced for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. The programs
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- Present-Day Immigration Waves
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