ConEstablishment types assume that "assimilation" works automatically, sort of like "osmosis," to solve any minor cultural problems created by heavy immigration. They tend to have this 19th Century picture of assimilation in action: The huddled masses stumble off the docks in Boston, only to notice the Cabots and Lodges glowering at them for their uncouth behavior. Chastened, the newcomers resolve to begin the long struggle to become good Americans just like those august families.
Of course, these days, the descendants of those Puritans are working as program officers for foundations telling the newly-arrived immigrant how much better the culture back home in, say, Guatemala was than the culture created by their Boston Brahmin ancestors - who, as you will recall, were so criminally insensitive as to glower.
There is, however, one vibrant, self-confident culture in modern America: hip-hop. ... Hip-hop is doing what whites no longer have the will or means to do: assimilate the children of Hispanic immigrants.
Of course, Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and the rest are leading Latino-Americans toward the African-American model. As I wrote last year, "Currently, 22% of white births are illegitimate compared to 69% of black births. Among immigrant Latino mothers, 37% of their new babies were illegitimate. But among American-born Latino mothers, the illegitimacy rate rises to 48%."
The New York Times is finally catching on. Jason DeParle writes in "Struggling to Rise in Suburbs Where Failing Means Fitting In" about the children of Latino immigrants in the suburban slums of the Washington D.C. metroplex:
During the Housing Bubble.
As Jesselyn [8th grade dropout daughter of Salvadoran immigrants] tells it, she assimilated to the surrounding values of gangsta rap. Writing in her eighth-grade yearbook, she celebrated friends as “my n****!” and labeled enemies “crackers,” “bamma” and “whyte.” ...
Part of what sets the area apart is the strain between immigrant parents and their Americanizing children, who wince at their accents and dirty jobs. Langley Park is an immigrant neighborhood where it is an insult to be called an immigrant. Teenagers call the rough-looking newcomers “hinchos,” or “hicks.”
“Hinchos try to look black, but they’re not as good at it as we are,” said Jesselyn’s 14-year-old brother, Victor Jr.Weak parental authority abets strong gangs. The dominant force in many young lives is Mara Salvatrucha-13, or MS-13, which is known for its violence and international reach. But there are scores of lesser cliques — Street Thug Criminals, Sexy but Stupid — that strive to live up to their name. ...
In addition, the scholars say, a seductive youth culture encourages poor teenagers to denigrate work and school and find valor in violence. Unwilling to take bad jobs, unable to get good ones, teenagers like Jesselyn often seek satisfaction in the streets.
“I’m not going to scrub someone’s toilet,” she said.
Though “assimilation” and “upward mobility” are often used as synonyms, Mr. Portes and Mr. Rumbaut emphasize that they are not the same thing. Some groups move up by resisting assimilation; they study and work in ethnic enclaves. Others assimilate to values and behaviors of the American ghetto.
That is what Jesselyn said she and other poor, streetwise Salvadorans had done: followed the example of poor streetwise blacks.
“They’re like a role model,” she said. “We’re a lot like them.”
Sometimes she said that both groups simply react to the same forces of poverty and prejudice. (“We’ve lived the same thing.”) But she also talked of consciously imitating what she sees as the strengths of poor blacks. (“They don’t let themselves get pushed around.”)
Either way, she saw herself behind a color line, with success beyond her reach.“I thought the American dream was just meant for white people,” she said. “The big house with the two beautiful kids, the dream car, and the dream career — when the hell you hear a Spanish has that?”
As I pointed out most of a decade ago, let's say Latinos are only 1/3rd as likely as African Americans to fall into the underclass. Well, then, in a few decades when the Latino population is three times the size of the current black population, we've created for ourselves a new Hispanic underclass as big as the current black underclass.