Chapter

Cultural Uniqueness

Michael O. Emerson and George Yancey

in Transcending Racial Barriers

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199742684
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199943388 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199742684.003.0019
Cultural Uniqueness

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Groups have their own personalities and ways of doing—what we call culture. For distinct groups to come together, they must share a core and they must have distinctions. Our students in race and ethnicity classes intuitively recognize this fact. For most of U.S. history, one form or another of assimilation has been the de facto model of “unity in diversity.” Most bluntly, achieving unity relied on attempts to squeeze out group distinctiveness. This effort began in the highest office in the land—that of the U.S. president. What might cultural uniqueness look like? We can think of the distinction between thin ethnicity and thick ethnicity. Many people in the United States who are assimilated practice thin ethnicity. This chapter argues that we must create a society that has both a common cultural core and acknowledges our mutual obligations, and we must have cultural and individual distinctiveness. That is the model of e pluribus unum that we must now strive for.

Keywords: United States; culture; cultural uniqueness; ethnicity; race; diversity; mutual obligations; distinctiveness; assimilation

Chapter.  4572 words. 

Subjects: Race and Ethnicity

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