Interethnic relations (in the USA and Great Britain)

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Interethnic relations (in the USA and Great Britain)

USA today is both a “salad bowl” and a “melting pot” of nations for all the diversity of cultures and their interrelations is represented in the country. As J.F. Kennedy pointed out, “Every American who ever lived… was either an immigrant himself or a descendant of immigrants”.

It was due to the contribution of every nationality, every individual who had ever inhabited the country that this unique and solid culture appeared, and because of this it can be called a “melting pot of nations”. And whatever imperfections or sins this culture be accused of, it still remains unique for there is no other example of a country in the world where one nation would imply a whole mixture of nationalities.

Even though nowadays the whole world tends to grow cosmopolitan, the USA remains still the best example of tolerance and homelike atmosphere for aliens.

It isn’t being disputed though that diversity where the difference of opinion is inevitable cannot but create troubles. And America is not an exception.

If to turn to the ethnic make-up of the country, the number of the nationalities that constitute it is merely uncountable, with the descendants of British colonists being the largest one and as the result the most influential. It is them who “gave the new nation its language, laws, and philosophy of government”. Since the times of the first colonists “the energy of Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles and all the European tribes, of the Africans, and of the Polynesians” contributed immensely to the development of the USA in order to be assimilated ,or “melted” in the common “pot” of nations.

It is those who stood out from the crowd that created problems, either due to their own desire to counteract the mainstream culture or the tendency of the representatives of the “original” Americans for repudiating those who are different (which is actually inherent to any society, however democratic it may be).

For centuries the most vivid example of such a deplorable discrimination was the state of the Native Americans and the blacks in their country. As far as the former are concerned “by the 15th century, there were 15 to 20 million Indians in the Americas. Perhaps as many as 700 000 were living within the present limits of the United States”. By the time colonization was over they counted in only several thousand. Neither the blacks felt at home being continuously humiliated end exploited. Undoubtedly the situation has changed today to a great extend if not to say reversed for the values of humanity have eventually prevailed over cruelty and discrimination. The needs of the formerly oppressed citizens of the USA are taken proper and thorough care of. And although some discontent and injustice still remains the representatives of these races are gradually gaining their equal standing in the structure of the society.

There are also other “ingredients” in the “salad bowl” of the American nation. These are Hispanics who “form the second largest cultural minority in the United States, after the nation’s 30 million blacks”. This group is actually quite diverse as it embraces the whole number of people of different nationalities — Cubans, Mexicans, South Americans, Puerto-Ricans, Brazilians and other. Though many of them have long ago become an integral part of the American culture, got assimilated, in general this group is still among those who are facing hardships, discrimination, sometimes even disdain. And many of them somehow fail to enter the society on equal terms with others. Though for that too there are reasons and explanations, the most common of which being “lower levels of education, difficulties with English”. It should be mentioned though that Cuban population, for example, is “largely middle-class. Many of these immigrants are educated people with backgrounds in professions or business. As a result, they have had more economic success in the USA than many other Hispanics”. Thus it proves to a certain extent the fact that it depends on the person himself if he manages to integrate in the society or not.

Apart from these large groups, the American nation is constituted of the whole range of other nationalities, less numerous but not less important. Basically a representative of almost every nation in the world can find his fellow countryman in America. They were coming throughout all American history, seeking shelter, safe haven from war, hunger, misery, injustice and persecution. In different periods of history they were coming from different parts of the world, thus almost all the continents are equally represented. Numerous Europeans, countless Arabs, multitude of Chinese and Japanese cohabitate and make up one nation, however different they all might be. Many of them even now stick to the traditions and customs that have been handed over to them by their ancestors. In the streets of big American cities one can easily meet an Indian or Arabian woman in their national dresses, a Jew in the traditional cap and some sort of frock and everybody is just glad to tolerate this, as one of the peculiar aspects of American life, as soon as it doesn’t come in contradiction with law, common sense and ideas of the nation. Otherwise it inevitably leads to misunderstanding on the both sides and as a result — to problems and conflicts which are hard to solve.

That is why American nation is not only a melting pot of different ethnicities, but also a “salad bowl” with some elements standing out from the crowd. So it should be remembered that equilibrium is to be preserved and the interests of every ethnic group — taken into account in order to preserve the fame of the country as highly democratic and by means of that to evade social upheavals.

Today migration processes are a common thing. For example in 2004 an estimated 223000 more people migrated to the UK than migrated abroad. The same thing can be observed in the USA. So as a result, we can observe a great number of ethnic minorities on the territories of these countries.

But first let’s try to distinguish what ethnic minority means.

Ethnic - relating to a particular race, nation, or tribe and their customs and traditions; someone who comes from a group of people who are a different race, religion etc or who have a different background from most other people in that country. Minority - a small group of people or things within a much larger group; a group of people of a different race, religion etc from most other people in that country. So from these definitions we can assume that ethnic minority is a group of people of a different race from the main group in a country, which has its linguistic, religious and cultural identity and traditions.

Now a question arises: what are the British and American societies, which places in them do ethnic minority groups occupy and what problems do they face?

First let’s take GB as an example of a multiethnic society. The increase in the numbers of people from different ethnic backgrounds and countries was one of the most significant changes in Britain during the 1990s. This population growth took place in the context of continuing counter-urbanization and regional economic decline and these twin patterns present both opportunities and challenges for the development of the British multi-cultural society.

The 1991 Census was the first to include a question on ethnic group. 92.1 per cent of the UK population described themselves as white (though not necessarily British). The remaining 7 per cent (4.6 million) belonged to non-white ethnic minority groups.

Since then a lot has changed. Today about 5.5% (5.9% in England and Wales) of national population which is about 60 mln is from an ethnic minority. The largest of them are: Indian, Pakistani, Black Caribbean, Black African, Bangladeshi and Chinese.

The US has also a long history of immigration, from the first Spanish and English settlers to arrive on the shores of the what-would-become-the-USA to the waves of immigrants in the present days. That is why it is so often said that the US is a nation of immigrants or more colloquial a vegetable soup. Today the major minority groups on the territory of the US are African-Americans, Indians, Hispanics, Chinese and Eskimos.

And now let’s outline the main problems ethnic minorities face.

The first and the major one is the problem of racial discrimination. Although numerous laws in the US as well as in GB make it unlawful to discriminate on racial grounds ("Racial grounds" includes colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins) in employment, training, education, the provision of goods, facilities and services and other activities, people from ethnic minority groups are more at risk of being the victim of a racially motivated attack than white people.

Besides they have lower levels of economic activity than white people. The employment rate for ethnic minorities in Great Britain for example in 2002 was 59 per cent, as compared to an overall rate of 75 per cent.

But what is more, bitter divisions are often breaking out between these minority groups. For example, in the US two largest minorities – Blacks and Hispanics – are often at odds over such issues as jobs (many Blacks fear that Hispanics, who are often willing to work for less than the legal minimum wage, are supplanting them in even the lowest positions), immigration (Hispanics outnumber may not only Blacks but they soon begin taking the most of the menial jobs – the largest source of employment) and political empowerment(althoughthey have often united behind candidates from one group or the other, attempts to weld long-lasting political coalitions in most large cities have been difficult to sustain). At the root of this quarrel is a seismic demographic change – Hispanic will soon outnumber African-Americans. As a result Hispanics become more strident in their demands for a larger slice of the economic and political pie and Blacks in their turn fear that those gains will come at their expense. Increasingly, these long-simmering tensions are flaring into violence, especially in cities where one of the groups has a monopoly on political power. But what leaders in both camps fear most is that white politicians will try to play off the two groups against each other.

To my mind it is a natural phenomenon that there are difficulties ethnic minorities face because of the variation in their traditions, the way they see the world and for many it is quite difficult to understand a person from another culture. But at the same time, they are also people and should be treated in the proper way. So people should be tolerable to each other and collaborate. Because they have far more to gain from pooling their strengths than from bickering with each other.

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