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Americanization can never be a cold, calculating process of the brain. It must spring from hearts filled with love for men.
66 There is no way by which we can make anyone feel that it is a blessed and splendid thing to be an American, unless we ourselves are aglow with the sacred fire-unless we interpret Americanism by our kindness, our courage, our generosity, our fairness.'
There are, however, ways and methods of Americanization which will be successful and those which will merely harm the cause. Americanization is in some respect an art, requiring great skill of its workers. It is a difficult and a delicate art, for we are dealing with human hearts, with primal passions, with inherited prejudices, with minds which are supersensitive and which are prone to read into our purposes motives which we do not possess.
We have given too much time in the past to seeking a technical definition for Americanization. It is well to know whither we are headed, but nothing is to be gained by trying to set forth in so many words such a technical definition. Anyone who is American at heart knows that we have in purpose nothing of Prussianization. We seek nothing through force or fear. Indeed we might seek long and find no better definition of Americanization than is contained in the golden rule: “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."
Oversensitive workers have feared that even the “ Americanization" might give offense and have sought, without much success, to find a new term for our purpose. The word Americanization is a good word. It can offend only those who read into its meaning that which has never been intended. Technically it means “the making of America ” or “the process of making Americans.” Surely there
Franklin K, Lane.
is nothing in either of these definitions that could offend. Instead, then, of spending time seeking new combinations of words to take its place, let us bend our efforts to giving Americanization its proper meaning
America is a brotherhood. Men of many races have chosen to become members. We who are already initiated through the accident of birth or choice by immigration are now to extend the hand of fellowship to the later comers. Upon the tact, skill, and diligence with which we do our part will depend in no small measure the future of America.
But though it is difficult for us as yet to picture definitely what we wish to produce, to visualize the composite American of the future, it is necessary that we formulate some idea, set before ourselves some fairly tangible objective, so that our efforts may be effective. Can we not then take as this objective the creation of a homogeneous people?'
We must first of all, if we are to do our task properly, possess the American spirit ourselves. We should have some knowledge of those whom we are seeking to initiate into our brotherhood. We must know the difficulties under which they are laboring in this new land. We must come to have a real respect for them as men and for their possibilities as members.
We can succeed only if we approach our task with hearts beating in sympathy with the needs of our fellow men, with visions unclouded by the hates or passions of war, “ with charity for all and malice toward none." Unless we are ourselves convinced that these people from other lands are desirable potential Americans, that we need them here, that they come not with empty hands but with arts, crafts, sciences, music, ideals, which will add to the wealth of our common heritage-unless we feel that to us is given not so much a duty as a great opportunity, we shall fail.?
I believe that there is one and only one way by which you can make a good American, and that is by sympathy, by understanding. If we are to deal wisely in this larger day, we must get within the man and look out with his eyes not only upon this strange world in which he has landed but upon the land from which he came; for has not America become as a foster mother to these strugglers? We want an avenue of communication opened to reach that man's soul. And as he surveys this land and knows its people he will come to understand the country and to love the people.
The whole of this continent is to him now the cramped apartment, the dirty street, and the sweatshop or the ory. To the sweep of the great land and its many beckonings, his eyes are closed. And in his isolation and ignorance and disappointment there is a fruitful nesting place for all the hurtful wicrobes that attack society::
1 John Iblder, in Conference Proceedings. 2 F. C. Butler, in Conference Proceedings. 3 Franklin K. Lane.
OUR OWN ATTITUDE.
Just as the teacher must have in her heart a deep love for little children if she is to succeed in her work, so must the Americanization worker possess a spirit of respect, tolerance, and sympathy. Nor can we pretend to such a feeling if we have it not. The foreignborn people among whom we must work, with their senses sharpened by our neglect, and exclusiveness of the past, will be quick to detect the slightest feeling of patronage or superiority. Indeed they can. discern it even when we ourselves may think we do not have it. Unless we can meet our new Americans as man to man, seeking to learn from them as well as to teach, we will never be able to make the cordial and sympathetic contact which is so essential.
One of the reasons the alien shuts the door in your face to-day is because she has too often fallen a victim to disinterestedness that was really self-interest, and to assistance that was self-advertising; and to undisciplined, spasmodic efforts that drew her into the whirlpool of uplift, but left her worse off than before. Somehow unless you can learn to meet her with directness and simplicity and sincerity as a friendly understanding human being, measuring the day's success more by loss than by gain, by purpose rather than by fulfillment, you will fail at the task of Americanization.
If Americanization service appeals to you primarily as a chance to educate yourself, lay it aside. Such education will certainly be a big by-product, but you have not the right to ask the foreigner to pay for your elucation nor America to liquidate your mistakes.
If you have racial prejudice and inhospitality in your heart and a sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority in your mind and go with your hands bearing gifts, you will ultimately set America back rather than forward at this critical time.1
MUST KNOW OUR PEOPLE.
There is only one way in which we can learn a proper respect for the people among whom we are to work, and that is by knowing them. Invariably, workers among the foreign born come to have a love for them. Their simple, homely traits of frankness, sincerity, and a sort of childlike simplicity endear them to those who learn to look beyond the superficial externals.
We have been too prone to judge whole groups by the acts of individuals. The newspapers have unconsciously and unintentionally helped to give us distorted pictures of a whole race by closing their stories of crime with such statements as "the murderer is a Hungarian” or “ the criminal is a Greek.” If they cared to do so, they. could not infrequently close with a statement that “the scoundrel is a native-born American,” but this they do not do. Such statements have had a tendency to connect in our minds criminality with our foreign-born people. Obviously, this is a deep injustice. Having for
1 Frances A. Kellor.
the most part only a dense ignorance of the virtues of our new Americans, many have unwittingly ascribed to them only vices.
And, because of this ignorance of ours, we tend to group these people in large masses and to ascribe to each member of a group those characteristics which we have been pleased to ascribe to the group as a whole. With such a grouping established, we are constantly ready to believe ill of those concerning whom we know so little. The fault of an individual becomes the fault of “his people.” The unreliability of some Poles causes us to believe all Poles unreliable; the Italian acceptance of overcrowded dwellings causes us to accept statements that all Italians prefer to live in overflowing tenements. Then, when a crisis comes, a time of emotional strain, resentment blazes out against a whole group, innocent with guilty. And in response comes resentment for injustice. That the injustice was unintentional, based merely on lack of understanding, does not lessen the emotion on one side or the other.
To the native born we must say: Know the people with whom you are working. Do not fall into the error of feeling that there is a magical process which can be applied to all national groups to accomplish your end. Standpoint, method of application, and form of procedure must be based upon the psychology of the folk, upon their customs and beliefs, upon their perceptive bases. You can not gain the cooperation of those whom you do not know. The method followed with the Pole will not always gain results when applied without change to the Italian or the Jew or the Croatian.
One can not gain the confidence of those he detests or of those he does not appreciate and whose ideals and dreams he can not sympathize with. I come into frequent contact with an excellent woman who is perfectly enthusiastic about the theory of community organization, yet she can not succeed in her work among the Russian-Jewish people, whom she is hoping to organize, because it is instinctively felt by them, despite all her efforts, that she despises them.”
Not only must we eliminate the obnoxious and insulting nicknames which we thoughtlessly bestowed upon our new Americans in the past, such as
Dago," 'Wop,” and Hunky," but we should cease to speak of them even as foreigners. That man can never be thoroughly assimilated who hears himself constantly referred to as a “foreigner." It will be noted that the Bureau of Education uses the term foreigner.”
KNOW THEIR DIFFICULTIES.
Yes; more sympathy and interest and real brotherhood on the part of native Americans toward the foreign born is needed if this Americanization movement is to be a success. And this sympathy and interest can be awakened only by a greater knowledge concerning these various races immigrating to this country, by a knowledge of their characteristics, their history, and their past and present conditions in their native lands, for Americans must remember that these “foreigners,” too, have had their glorious history, their patriotic struggles, and their great men of literature, art, science, and every line of human endeavor.3
Such a knowledge on our part of these peoples would show us that many of the conditions under which they are living in this country,
1 John Ihlder, in Conference Proceedings.