Remythologizing The Melting Pot
Even the Wall Street Journal`s editorial page
seemed momentarily stunned by President Bush`s January
call for the
open borders policy that it had
so long demanded but couldn`t possibly have expected
any president to endorse.
Particularly noteworthy was Jacoby`s passage:
Know Nothing Party of the 1840s begat the Anglo-Saxonist
the 1890s begat the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and
on into our era. Pete Wilson,
Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado…today`s
restrictionist pantheon, too, is made up almost entirely
of Republicans or conservatives."
Thus in Jacoby`s worldview, opponents of open borders
are the descendents of the Ku Klux Klan.
Now that`s American conservatism!
Jacoby is also the editor of a new and oddly important
book on assimilation called
Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and
What it Means to Be American.
This collection comprises 22 essays by neoconservatives
Joel Kotkin, and
Gregory Rodriguez, liberals like Pete Hamill and
Amitai Etzioni, and leftists like
Herbert J. Gans. Only Harvard economist
George J. Borjas, an old VDARE.COM
friend, provides a token, but powerful, voice of
To say that Jacoby`s book is significant, however, is
not to say that it`s good. It consists mostly of happy-clappy
celebrations of diversity, combined with the usual
neocon griping that mass immigration would be all
hunky-dory if it weren`t for those evil leftist
intellectuals who seduce innocent immigrants into
Jacoby`s introductory chapter, "Assimilation: A Progress
Report," does not encourage confidence in her abilities
as either an analyst or an editor.
Numbers, to be frank, are not her strong suit. For
example, she writes,
"The estimates of minority purchasing
power change almost too fast to keep track of them, but
according to one study, Latino buying muscle grew by 160
percent in 2002 alone…"
To you and me, any study that claims that the value of
purchases made by Hispanics in 2002 was 2.6 times what
it was in 2001 is prima facie ludicrous. But not to
Likewise, she burbles, "But, in fact, as a group,
immigrant children bring home a superb [report]
Well, sure they do … assuming their parents graduated
top of their class at the
Indian Institute of Technology in Bangalore. But
Hispanics, who make up the majority of immigrant
children, bring home a
lousy report card (on average). Even though Jacoby
hired Stephan Thernstrom to write a chapter, she
apparently didn`t pay attention to the recent book he
wrote with his wife Abigail,
No Excuses, which includes data indicating that
even American-born Hispanic students wind up
over three grade levels behind whites.
Jacoby is essentially an emotional thinker. She is
driven by affection toward her ancestors—she dedicates
her book to "Aunt Bea, who was the last living link
to my family`s Ellis Island generation"—and by
resentment of those now long-dead "Anglo-Saxonists"
who were less than wholly appreciative of Aunt Bea.
On the book`s next to last page, Jacoby unveils her big
plan for helping assimilate the latest newcomers: We
should pay less attention to the history of Americans
who were here before, oh, say, her family arrived.
Instead, "the immigrant experience, broadly defined,
should play a larger part" in the "national
Jacoby`s dream of making common cause with the new
immigrants to symbolically stick it to those nasty
Anglo-Saxonists who gave the fish eye to Aunt Bea back
in nineteen-ought-whenever reminds me of the joke about
how the Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves surrounded
by hundreds of
The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and sighs, "It looks
like we are doomed, my friend." But Tonto shouts
over his shoulder as he rides off, "What`s all this
`we` stuff, paleface?"
The distinction that looms so large in Jacoby`s mental
universe between white WASPs (bad) and white Ellis
Islanders (good) is invisible to non-white immigrants of
the post-1965 era.
They think both groups are just a bunch of palefaces.
Further, doesn`t a desire that the American job market
be thrown open to the entire world in the hope that this
might lead to, say,
Stephen Foster getting less space in the history
Irving Berlin getting more seem a tad
I have zero (0) WASP ancestry. But this kind of
squabbling over ancient bragging rights bores me to
tears. I`m concerned about what immigration is doing to
the future of my country.
Most of the other essayists picked by Jacoby also seem
motivated by similarly vaporous concerns rather than by
a desire to do anything practical to encourage
assimilation. Some of the neocons suggest getting rid of
particularly egregious recent innovations like bilingual
education and dual citizenship, but only Borjas offers
any positive steps. He describes, for example, a recent
New Zealand that requires immigrants to post an
bond. If they can`t pass an English proficiency test
within a year of arrival, they forfeit it.
Intellectuals witter about assimilation in order to
avoid talking about what really matters in immigration
policy: the quantity and quality of
Almost every essay salutes how wonderfully the Ellis
assimilated, but only Borjas mentions one obvious
"By 1924, the United States had adopted
strict limitations on the number and type of foreigners
who could enter the country… This provided a `breathing
period` that may have fueled the assimilation process by
cutting off the supply of new workers to
ethnic enclaves and reducing the economic and social
contacts between immigrants and their countries of
Similarly, only Borjas makes this nearly tautologically
"Because the social and economic
conditions facing immigrants are not as favorable today
as they were a century ago, it would be prudent for the
United States to reform its entry standard to give
preference to those immigrants who are most likely to
Every other contributor treats the quantity and quality
of immigrants as simply a given—as far beyond human
control as continental drift.
So why is Reinventing the Melting Pot notable?
Because it is self-negating almost to the point of being
The contradiction between what it preaches and what it
is reminds me of the famous
Cretan Paradox that puzzled ancient Greek logicians.
A poet from Crete named Epimenides contradictorily
declared "I am a liar." Similarly, the very
method by which Jacoby created her book gives the lie to
its basic theme that assimilation is everything and
selection is nothing.
Reinventing the Melting Pot
illustrates how American intellectual discourse has
become unmoored from American daily reality. The
fundamental assumption of this book, as with almost
everything published these days, is that social
construction is all-powerful. We shouldn`t worry about
who or how many come to America because we can mold
anybody into anything. To worry about which immigrants
to let in is racist.
Yet, at the same time that intellectuals furiously
propound the moral superiority of constructionism over
selectionism, they, like most other Americans, have lost
their taste for actually trying to mold individuals`
characters. That`s why nobody except Borjas proposed
anything new that we should be doing.
It`s not hard to think up better ways to help assimilate
immigrants. For example, I
pointed out on VDARE.COM some time ago:
"You don`t get somebody to like you by doing them a
favor. That only tends to build resentment over the fact
that they are needy and you are not. No, you ask them
to do you a favor."
suggested requiring immigrants applying for citizenship
"… put in, say, 100 hours of community service… We
would have to carefully control what kind of service.
Allowing, say, Chinese applicants to work in Chinatown
would accomplish nothing. Nor would forcing them to work
among the dregs of the native-born. No, immigrant
applicants must work in organizations where at least
half the volunteers were American citizens and where the
people served are not primarily the immigrant`s own
ethnic group. Filling sandbags for the Red Cross during
a flood or hurricane might be the perfect task."
Yet, when I mentioned this at a conference on
citizenship, the neocons were aghast. How could I
morally demand that an immigrant do something he might
not feel like doing?
This reluctance to try to mold people is everywhere
today. Look at the business world. Tom Watson Sr. had
IBM employees sing
106 company songs. But that kind of social
engineering of groupthink, valuable as it was in
building a great company, would be inconceivable today.
Now it`s difficult even to get professionals to wear
business suits. Instead, today`s corporate ethos is
selectionist: Pick the right people and then let them
Or, take education. Constructionism is the ideology, but
selectionism is the reality.
Nowhere in Jacoby`s book does anyone dare suggest that
immigrants with high IQs might assimilate better than
immigrants with low IQs. Indeed, the dread letters
"IQ" are verboten in intellectual life these days.
Yet, in the real world, parents scramble to get their
kids into magnet schools and gifted programs, many of
which select their students explicitly on IQ. (For
example, the LA Unified School District operates a
Highly Gifted Magnet school specifically open only to
kids with stratospheric
When Americans say a neighborhood has "good schools"
or "bad schools," they mean "good students"
Nobody cares whether or not a prestigious college does a
good job educating its students. As teaching
institutions, Stanford has been notorious for
grade inflation and Berkeley for assigning grad
thick accents to lecture huge auditoriums full of
bewildered victims. Yet this doesn`t hurt their
reputations because the status of a top college doesn`t
depend on how much value it adds to the students it
recruits. No—the standing of a college is primarily
based on the SAT scores its students made back in high
Most relevantly, consider how Tamar Jacoby created
Reinventing the Melting Pot. Since she admires the
government`s mass immigration system so much, she ought
to have picked her contributors the same way the
government picks immigrants.
- For example, because most immigrants are admitted
solely because they are the kin of earlier immigrants,
Jacoby should have allowed other pundits to force her
to hire their relatives as her authors.
- Or, in the manner of the U.S. Government`s
Diversity Visa Lottery, she could have let randomly
chosen opinion mongers write her book.
- Then again, in the spirit of the new
Bush Plan, she could have let any writer in the
world contribute a chapter, and the book would have
ended up 10,000,000 pages long and in 100 languages.
But, no—she carefully selected as contributors
those elite individuals she considers the best and the
most congenial with herself.
Did she then seriously attempt to assimilate the first
drafts, to mold them into a coherent, persuasive whole?
Not that I can tell. She didn`t even try to get her
contributors to agree on terminology, confessing, "As
an editor, I`ve let the essayists use their own language
to describe immigrant absorption."
Nor does it look like she tried to keep her writers from
being shown up as ignoramuses by her other writers. I`m
not even talking about how Borjas makes practically
everyone else look out to lunch. No, she didn`t even
bother to protect her neocon allies from being made to
look foolish by her other neocon allies.
For example, Thernstrom argues that current immigrant
groups will assimilate largely automatically because
that`s what happened to German-Americans. "There was
a German ethnic group once, a huge and powerful one. But
it has vanished in the melting pot," he intones.
Yet, in the very next chapter, Nathan Glazer explains
that German-American multiculturalism didn`t die out
naturally, but "was expunged by
World War I and its aftermath."
And later, Barone gives some details of how German
ethnicity was smashed in 1917:
"The Wilson administration and its
propagandists conducted a
campaign against German culture, renaming sauerkraut
`liberty cabbage,` suppressing German-language schools
and newspapers, prosecuting political opponents of the
Hmm. Should we try that kind of “campaign” with
You might think that Jacoby would have asked Thernstrom
to assimilate these facts about German-Americans and the
melting pot into a new essay that wouldn`t be so
But, nah, Jacoby`s a modern American. And modern
Americans just aren`t into hassling people like that.
That`s why we select our colleagues so carefully—to
minimize friction and discordance.
Except, according to Jacoby and Co., this prudence and
discretion would be wrong when it comes to the
fundamental civic duty of choosing who gets to
Immigrants ought to select themselves. And we American
citizens shouldn`t have any opinion on the subject.
And if you think otherwise, that means you were probably
begat by the Ku Klux Klan.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and