CULTURE WARS

The end of the Cold War ushered in hopes for a new era of global harmony. Instead, what one observer called a “rebellion of particularisms”—renewed emphasis on group identity and insistent demands for group recognition and power—racked the international arena during the 1990s. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, socialism and nationalism had united people of different backgrounds in pursuit of common goals. Now, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe, the waning of movements based on socialism and the declining power of nation-states arising from globalization seemed to unleash long-simmering ethnic and religious antagonisms. Partly in reaction to the global spread of a secular culture based on consumption and mass entertainment, intense religious movements attracted increasing numbers of followers—Hindu nationalism in India, orthodox Judaism in Israel, Islamic fundamentalism in much of the Muslim world, and evangelical Christianity in the United States. Like other nations, although in a far less extreme way and with little accompanying violence, the United States experienced divisions arising from the intensification of ethnic and racial identities and religious fundamentalism.

THE NEWEST IMMIGRANTS

Because of shifts in immigration, cultural and racial diversity became increasingly visible in the United States. Until the immigration law of 1965, the vast majority of twentieth-century newcomers had hailed from Europe. That measure, as noted in Chapter 25, sparked a wholesale shift in immigrants’ origins. Between 1965 and 2000, nearly 24 million immigrants entered the United States, a number only slightly lower than the 27 million during the peak period of immigration between 1880 and 1924. About 50 percent came from Latin America and the Caribbean, 35 percent from Asia, and smaller numbers from the Middle East and Africa. Only 10 percent arrived from Europe, mostly from the war-torn Balkans and the former Soviet Union.

Table 27.1 IMMIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES, 1960-2000

Decade

Total

Europe

Asia

Western Hemisphere

Africa

Oceania

1961-1970

3,121,584

1,123,492

427,642

1,716,374

28,954

25,122

1471-1980

4,493,302

800,368

1,388,178

1,982,735

80,779

41,242

1981-1990

7,337,030

761,530

2,738,157

3,615,225

176,891

45,209

1991-2000

9,052,999

1,359,737

2,795,672

4,486,806

354,919

55,845

Based on the 2000 Census, these maps show that nearly every state has a significant non-white population.

In 2000, the number of foreign-born persons living in the United States stood at more than 31 million, or 11 percent of the population. Although less than the peak proportion of 14 percent in 1910, in absolute numbers this represented the largest immigrant total in the nation’s history. The immigrant influx changed the country’s religious and racial map. By 2000, more than 3 million Muslims resided in the United States, and the combined population of Buddhists and Hindus exceeded 1 million.

Recent immigrants reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony.

As in the past, most immigrants became urban residents, with New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami the most common destinations. New ethnic communities emerged, with homes, shops, restaurants, foreign-language newspapers, radio and television stations, and ethnic professionals like businessmen and lawyers. Unlike in the past, rather than being concentrated in one or two parts of city centers, immigrants quickly moved into outlying neighborhoods and older suburbs. The immigrant influx revitalized neighborhoods like New York City’s Washington Heights (a Dominican enclave) and Flushing (a center for Asian newcomers). By the turn of the century, more than half of all Latinos lived in suburbs. Orange County, California, which had been a stronghold of suburban conservatism between 1960 and 1990, elected a Latina Democrat to Congress in the late 1990s. While most immigrants settled on the East and West Coasts, some moved to other parts of the country. They brought cultural and racial diversity to once-homogeneous communities in the American heartland.

Post-1965 immigration formed part of the worldwide uprooting of labor arising from globalization. In 2000, the global immigrant population was estimated at 100 million. Those who migrated to the United States came from a wide variety of backgrounds. They included poor, illiterate refugees from places of economic and political crisis—Central Americans escaping the region’s civil wars and poverty, Haitians and Cambodians fleeing repressive governments. But many immigrants were well-educated professionals from countries like India and South Korea, where the availability of skilled jobs had not kept pace with the spread of higher education. In the year 2000, more than 40 percent of all immigrants to the United States had a college education.

For the first time in American history, women made up the majority of newcomers, reflecting the decline of manufacturing jobs that had previously absorbed immigrant men, as well as the spread of employment opportunities in traditionally female fields like care of children and the elderly and retail sales. (Many were paid by their employers “off the books,” without withholding taxes. This practice became a focus of public discussion in 1993 when President Clinton was forced to withdraw two female cabinet nominees when it came to light that they had hired undocumented immigrants as housekeepers and paid them in this manner.) Thanks to cheap global communications and jet travel, modern-day immigrants retained strong ties with their countries of origin, frequently phoning and visiting home.

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