From the beginning of its immigration history, The United States of America encountered successive waves of settlement, especially from Europe and later from other continents. The majority of immigrants were from North and West Europe and established the foundation for the dominant culture so that others had to adjust. The South, Central, and East Europe immigrants carried a vital role throughout the Revolutionary War and during the first years of the new nation. Even though they had to face obstacles and discrimination, their experience might differ from that immigrants of from other continents. White ethnic groups were often favored due to regional, religious, and physical factors.
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People were not only discriminated against due to race but also segregated by skin tone. Thus, dark-skinned people of color had to face more hostility and discrimination. White and Slavic refugees were also favored. In most public places and transports, only fair-skinned people were allowed, while dark-skinned were excluded. Black workers and farmers were not even permitted to eat with white workers (Parrillo, 1994). This dynamic created segregation between light-skinned and dark-skinned refugees and gave benefits and priority to the former and put the latter into a disadvantaged situation. The migration region was significant as well and determined the level of malice and discrimination faced by the refugees. For instance, Dutch immigrants were treated well in the US, even though Dutch migration was low due to a stable economy and harmonious society. It can be explained by the fact that religion and physical features helped them adapt faster. Moreover, the dominant part of the community did not hold prejudice against them which also contributed to the acceptance.
Meanwhile, the Huguenots, French protestants who run from religious persecution, were able to rapidly assimilate into colonial society by switching to the Anglican church and learning the English language. However, they still faced ‘distrust and occasional violence from the dominant society’ (Parrillo, 1994). The hostility towards Huguenots can be partially explained by the tense and adverse relationships between France and England. Later, they were able to assimilate fully only after entirely losing their national identity, and changing their names and customs, which was their initial goal.
On account of upward mobility, it took about two generations for white refugees to be truly accepted into the American community. Since they could no longer retain much of their language and customs, second generations tended to be more Americanized and, thus, welcomed into the colonial regime of America. However, it took longer for ethnic minorities to adapt since the differences between their language, customs, and traditions were more prominent, and they were not always willing to give up on them. Additionally, the prejudice against dark-skinned people was still an ultimate factor. Therefore, it is not entirely fair to compare the adaptation of ethnic minorities to the adaptation of white ethnicities as they were certainly treated differently and required different amounts of time to be truly accepted.
To conclude, the segregation and hostility towards ethnic and white immigrants were mainly because of the differences in religion and language. It caused more social problems than nationality differences and became an essential strand for adaptation. Refugees and immigrants from all over the continents were often treated with disrespect and unfriendliness. In order to change that, they had to give up on their native language and customs, thus losing their national identity, which, at the same, time helped to gain American identity.
Parrillo, V. N. (1994). Strangers to these shores: Race and ethnic relations in the United States (11th ed.). Pearson.