Americanization was a euphoric movement that intended to integrate immigrant people in America into the American way of life. The subjects of Americanization were coerced into adopting American values and culture. Americanization movement came under criticism for the segregation it seemed to propagate.
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Some people claimed that the movement also had a racist nature (Finzsch et al 30). The movement started in early the twentieth century, and was very active during the course of the First World War. The immigrants were enrolled as military personnel in the American forces in the war as a part of the process of Americanization. Some serious social forces were responsible for the inception and the strength of the Americanization movement (Finzsch et al 36).
Government campaigns and support for the movement was the main cause of its rise. The authorities engaged the immigrants in civic education that taught the immigrants American values and responsibility. Obviously, there was a political reason for the movement.
The government in power then feared that the new immigrants who had come in large numbers would not be assimilated into the American culture and social inclination. This was a reason enough for the government to form organizations for campaign and education of the immigrants. In addition, the Native Americans thought that the immigrants would not be able to integrate into the American community quickly (Sollors 61).
This posed a danger of social conflict in the American society. Consequently, private civil movements geared towards promotion of American culture and values among the immigrants were formed. Furthermore, the United States government did not want the influence of the socialist and communist nature that was already taking root in the Soviet Union to take effect in America (Sollors 54). Factors threatening social and political integrity of the United States fuelled the efforts of the authorities towards assimilation of the immigrants.
Native groups, particularly the Indians were also the target of the campaigns. The Americanization movements and the authorities tried to change the Indians from their native way of life to European social values. This was done through European education and technology. Although assimilation of native Indians had started in early nineteenth century, the momentum of the process peaked in the early twentieth century when immigrants were being Americanized (Pickus 60).
Most of the immigrants from Europe were illiterate and did not speak or understand English. The social system felt the need to create a unified citizenry with a common language, preferably English. For commerce and industry to flourish, the industrialist felt that the social system had to be a European model.
Workers unions engaged in programs aimed at Americanizing the immigrants. Furthermore, religious entities such as Christian churches, which were already a cardinal component of the American culture tried to indoctrinate the immigrants in a bid to Americanize them (Pickus 50). Champions of Americanization argued that the process enabled the immigrants to cope with the difficulties of fitting into the new society.
The effort to integrate immigrant and Native Americans into the mainstream European culture is viewed as pervasive in today’s society. Education offered to the immigrants in order for them to learn English was viewed as an undermining the linguistic heritage of the immigrants’ culture (Finzsch et al 29)). The coercion methods used by the authorities and movements did not serve to assimilate the immigrants, but often resulted to resentment of the European culture.
The intended patriotism was not realized in this manner. The only reason that made the immigrants settle and live in America was the pressure that had forced them to migrate from their homeland to America. The Americanization campaign by the government was seen as a political ploy by the government to maintain stability and power through use of numbers (Sollors 40). The issue of Americanization remains a controversial issue to the present day due to its unusual nature.
Finzsch, Norbert, and Dietmar Schirmer. Identity and intolerance: nationalism, racism, and xenophobia in Germany and the United States. Washington, D.C.: German Historical Institute; 1998. Print.
Pickus, Noah M. Jedidiah. True faith and allegiance: immigration and American civic nationalism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. Print.
Sollors, Werner. Multilingual America: transnationalism, ethnicity, and the languages of American literature. New York: New York University Press, 1998. Print.