An Immigrant’s View of Immigration, Part 3: Melting Pot vs. Mosaic

In Part 2 of this series, I discussed three factors I believe led to the eventual assimilation of European immigrants into the American melting pot. The basic premise was that the majority of them wanted to assimilate, and that American culture, laws, and institutions helped/forced them to assimilate, or at least didn’t get in their way. In this article I will discuss my views on those factors that influence today’s new–and especially non-European–immigrants. [Editor’s note: to read this series from the beginning, click here.]

As the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 began to take effect, the number of European immigrants dropped and the number of non-European immigrants increased. Of course, there were three major groups of non-European origin already here; Asians, Africans, and Native Americans. The politics developed to deal with the past injustices toward these groups would have profound effects on them, future immigrants, and America in general.

I will not even attempt to summarize the unique hardships these three groups experienced. And no one should take what I write below as a sort of “equivalence” between the hardships of any set of groups. I cannot do historical justice to the different oppressions the groups may have experienced. However, there is one point I would like to mention because it is important in what follows.

Native Americans were doomed to second class status through the reservation system. Black Americans were given freedom only to experience another 100 years of discrimination and institutional oppression. Unfortunately, for both groups, continual federal involvement before and after the 1960s fated them to become “wards of the state.” The old joke applies here: “Hi, we’re from the federal government, and we’re here to help.” But in this case, it wasn’t, and still isn’t, funny.

What about Asians? I offer this observation as a point of debate: Asians never were wards of the state (except for the Japanese internment during WWII) to the extent the other two groups were. Yes, there were Asian ghettos. Yes, there were specific laws aimed at Asians. Yes, Asian communities and workers were unfairly and harshly treated. But overall, Asians struggled without the direct aid of a “compassionate government.”

Against this historical backdrop, the 1960s saw a growth in Liberal/Progressive anti-West and anti-American sentiment spurred on by opposition to the Vietnam War. During this time the West, particularly America, was seen as essentially evil at worst and broken at best for its treatment of minorities, women, and the poor. Social justice movements grew in strength in America, and internationally Liberation Theology was taking a foothold. These philosophies, wrapped in a socialist theme, provided a basis for upcoming laws dealing with education, housing, the family, minority and women’s rights, and a host of other social institutions and conventions. The very core of capitalism and the concept of the individual as the fundamental building block of society were being attacked. Since many of the new immigrants fell into various minority groups, the social justice movements affected them through new federal laws and programs. The current situation pertaining to illegal immigrants is an example, where immigration law, which should be concerned with American labor/talent needs, has morphed into politically exploitive civil rights and welfare laws.

It had become increasingly obvious, at least to the Liberal intelligentsia, that a melting pot could never be achieved, but even if created, a melting pot society had the potential to engulf minority cultures, thereby losing them forever. To combat the melting pot theory, the Left developed the “mosaic” concept, an idea first coined in 1938.

The argument was basically that America should not aim to be a melting pot, but rather a mosaic of races and cultures. The concept was sold on the idea that mosaic pieces are individually beautiful but when taken together form a magnificent artwork. This multicultural framework was not just an academic exercise, but a direct influence upon laws and government programs.

The problem with the mosaic concept is that tribal differences are emphasized, not minimized. Of all the possible outcomes of a set of scattered mosaic pieces, there are only a few that create a desired society, but there are countless combinations that produce a Balkanized society. In order to at least try to get to the best combination, there must be forcing functions that drive the individual pieces toward the desired end goal. This is an extremely difficult task, but it must be done. However, unlike in the days of the melting pot concept, in which government and social institutions encouraged assimilations, the outcome of nearly every federal program since the Great Society has been to drive wedges between groups and to increase the number of people that could become wards of the state–intentionally or not. This tendency has been aided by the extensive corruption in these programs that have allowed exploitation of the very groups they were created to help. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), a trained sociologist, was an early critic of a number of these programs. Today, however, the Civil Rights movement has become an industrial complex.

Seeing all of this, what are new immigrants to think? They may have left sorry conditions at home to arrive in a country they thought was great, only to find out that the native intelligentsia hate this country so much that they actively claim American Exceptionalism is a myth. Even more fundamentally: what if immigrants come to realize Americans don’t even want to defend their own border?

What incentive is there for immigrants to assimilate? There is nothing forcing, let alone encouraging, them to do so.  Yet the face of modern immigration is not defined by the faces of new immigrants. We are all human. Today’s broken immigration system is defined by programs hiding under the banner of good intentions, and managed by government ineptness and corruption, that create more political exploitation. Mosaicism enables tribalism, which is at the root of nearly all of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man.

NEXT IN THIS SERIES: American Exceptionalism–What the Liberal Intelligentsia Never Has Understood


tony-corvo-FCTony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues.  Many of his recent articles can be found at


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Related on OCR: “An Immigrant’s View of Immigration, Part 2: European Immigrants & the American Melting Pot”

Related on OCR: “An Immigrant’s View of Immigration, Part 1: The Need for Immigration”

Related on OCR: “A Conservative Case for Immigration Reform”

Related on OCR: “Did the Hispanic Vote Support the Wrong Party in Nov. 2012?”