Our Government, at every level, has stopped America from continuing to operate as what we used to refer to as "the great melting pot." When our country was "discovered" by the Italians, the Scandinavians and the Irish, among many others, as holding out the opportunity for attaining success, they ran into opposition. Much of it was oriented around Race and discrimination. But over time, that passed and today they and their offspring are seen as "American" as anyone else.
Today, we have arguments about "racism" all to often, regarding Color of Skin, and Religion...and there seems little hope that it will be resolved anytime soon.
Why did the first groups go beyond it in relatively short order while others cannot seem to get beyond the perceived challenge?
I hear comments that America has a problem with "white" privilege, that a significant portion of our residents are racist and act punitively against anyone who is not considered "white." Others posit that skin color never fades and is always a sign that is interpreted as being "different." And the argument regarding religious practices and beliefs adds fuel to the flame of perceived negativity. All of these positions are offered as reasons (or excuses) for the failure of groups being assimilated into American Life.
These reasons (or "excuses") don't hold up to close scrutiny.
Those who came to this country voluntarily wanted to become Americans. They had not found opportunity in the country of their birth and wanted the chance to attain more. They knew there was no guarantee of success, or even of survival, but they appreciated that America provided opportunity to try to achieve something more than was afforded them in their birth country. Many failed. Significant numbers died. But those who survived became full-fledged Americans thankful for the opportunity to succeed or fail on the basis of their own abilities, rather than a caste or other system in the country of their birth that denied them the chance to prove themselves. They saw the obstacles, including the racial opinions of those already here and established, as challenges to be overcome. There were no guarantees or gifts of success, but they accepted that as only fair.
African-Americans did not come by choice. And until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation few had the chance to succeed on their own abilities and merits. But freed they were, and declared to be citizens of the United States of America. Did they have challenges due to lack of education? Yes...but so did those who came from the Mediterranean and Asian countries. Did they face organized resistance and fear from those already established? Of course they did, just as did the other groups that had chosen to come here. The big difference was not the color of their skin; those of Mediterranean and Asian Heritage had the same obstacles. Their big difference was choice! What was the solution to that challenge? They could have actively petitioned for funds to travel back to their home country. Of course, history tends to ignore the fact that African-Americans were sold into slavery by their own countrymen for profit and to eliminate competition for power. Going back to those countries would allow them to look the same as others of their race, but they were unlikely to survive for long...and they had become used to living in America. So the clear choice for the vast majority was to stay here and strive for a successful free life.
And that struggle was severe in the Southern States of America due to the ingrained attitude of non-African-Americans to see African-Americans as less than equal. And the North, despite their self-serving claims, wasn't much better; they simply hid their opinions a bit more effectively. The Civil Rights Laws passed in the mid-twentieth century as well as the Supreme Court decisions of that ere were needed to provide legal protection for some semblance of equal treatment. But equal treatment in America as well as throughout the world has always been an illusion rather than a reality. It hasn't, doesn't and never will exist. America tries harder than most, but it is an impossible goal because the human race is not equal at all. We all have different abilities and traits and no one and no government can or should promise equality of anything. All that can be promised is to allow each person the right to take a chance. No guarantees of success or any level of result. People don't grow up equally. Someone born to well-educated and financially secure parents has a better shot at success than someone born in poverty to parents with no appreciable education. That is the way of life. But even a casual study of achievements reveal that a fair number of children born in poverty achieve greater success than those born into wealth and privilege.
The reason that a perception of racism remains so strong today is that our governments' decisions to trace and classify Americans today by Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation and Religion tells us that such differences are important. It says that even if you are a third generation American, the background of your great grandparents matters...officially.
It shouldn't. Yes, the laws of this country can provide a legal remedy if one is discriminated against...and they do. But that should be a private action by one citizen against another...not a basis for tracking by and the interest of the entire Federal Government. Leaving the government out of tracking such differences would send the clear signal to all of us that such differences do not matter, that we are all Americans and we have that common identity.
Every immigrant group that has come to America has had to comply with the requirements of our immigration laws, has had to adjust to American Society. In most cases, those coming here would gravitate to hold to themselves for emotional and financial security, even as they encouraged their children to learn English and become "American." Later generations increasingly became assimilated with the enthusiastic encouragement of the first arrivals...the "melting pot" worked.
Currently there are only two groups where this hasn't taken place; African-Americans, and those of the Islamic faith.
African-Americans that have failed to escape poverty can look to the Federal Government as the real cause. By taking the attitude that there needs to be virtually eternal financial support in a variety of forms, the Federal Government has essentially declared that African-Americans cannot succeed on their own efforts and merit. By so doing they invite and encourage all but the most dedicated and inspired member of that community to just take the offerings of the Federal Government and remain dependent thereon. They take it...but they are not stupid and do recognize that they are being disrespected and ultimately resent it mightily...and quite correctly start to "cop and attitude." Any human being would. Want to see a happy community? Provide limits to government support, but provide plenty of job training and guidance.
The other group that has not assimilated is that of the Islamic Faith. They show no sign of wanting to assimilate. Apparently, they want to re-create their country of origin here in America. That includes Sharia Law and a way of living that is contrary to the inherent freedoms of American culture. Such "separateness" should not be permitted...certainly not the legal attitude. In America, American Law applies and no area of the United States should be allowed to apply any other standards. If immigrants fail to follow our laws, they should be deported back to their country of origin. If already a citizen, they need to be prosecuted and jailed.
But our Federal Government would go a long way to recognizing the equality of every American by applying the policy of benign neglect to any and all attempts to track any racial, gender, ethnic or religious elements of its citizens. As the populace realizes that it isn't important to the government, they will cease to see it as important to them.