Past Program

Feb 23 - Mar 02, 2002

The Continuing Challenge of America's Ethnic Pluralism


The dilemma of diversity has resonance in many countries of the world that are struggling with racial and ethnic tensions. As the new century begins, the United States continues to wrestle with its legacies and promises, its deeds and creeds. Today’s immigrants are overwhelmingly Latino and Asian rather than of European descent. Assuming that the demographics of America’s population continue their current pattern, people of color will constitute the majority of American citizens before the middle of this century. Court decisions, mandated programs, social mobility of many members of minorities, and attitude shifts on the part of those in dominant groups are still relevant as we enter the new millennium. The debate continues over mandated remedies for categorical discrimination such as affirmative action, bilingualism inside and outside immigrant communities, and coalitions and conflicts among ethnic groups such as African- and Korean-Americans, and African- and Cuban-Americans. There is substantial evidence that African-Americans still feel the stigma of second-class citizenship more than any others except perhaps for Native Americans.


This session will convene scholars of American society and culture who focus on the past, present and, especially, predictions on the future course of America's ethnic pluralism. Session participants will be university teachers of American studies, historians, social scientists, journalists and policy makers. Participants will debate the view that when the 20th century began, the basic dichotomy in American society was between whites and non-whites, whereas at the end of the century the basic dichotomy was, and remains, mainly between blacks and non-blacks. Discussions will focus on issues of immigration, acculturation, civil rights, inter-minority conflict, and the fundamental question of what it means to be an American.