Majority groups support assimilation -- except when they're not majorities

January 5, 2012 By Divya Menon, American Psychiatric Association

We generally think that views about how to integrate a diverse society depend on people’s positions in that society—that is, whether they’re in the racial, religious, or cultural majority or a member of a minority. In the U.S., “people tend to believe that blacks prefer pluralism and whites prefer assimilation,” says University of Delaware psychologist Eric Hehman. Assimilation asks minorities—whether newly arrived or historically rooted—to drop their cultural identities and adopt the ways of the majority. Pluralism recognizes and even celebrates minority cultures, which live cooperatively within the majority culture.

Now a study by Hehman—along with University of Delaware colleagues Samuel L. Gaertner and David C. Wilson; John F. Dovidio of Yale University; Eric W. Mania of Quinsigamond Community College; Rita Guerra of Lisbon University Institute; and Brian M. Friel of Delaware State University—suggests that our views are more fluid and contextual than that. “The role the group occupies in a particular environment influences its preferences,” says Hehman. The study appears in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for .

The researchers analyzed questionnaires given to students about integration nationally and on campus at two universities that differ little except in their racial makeup—the University of Delaware, where 85 percent of the students are white; and Delaware State University, where blacks comprise 75 percent of the student body. The results confirmed the assumption that regarding national life, whites prefer assimilation and blacks pluralism. Unsurprisingly, at the mostly white University of Delaware, whites also wished minorities to assimilate, whereas blacks chose pluralism. At DSU, there was little support for pluralism among either blacks or whites (the latter anomaly might be explained by the fact that many students attend DSU as part-time commuters, so whites’ minority status on campus isn’t their predominant experience of life). But the strongest finding was also at DSU: “When blacks were the dominant group, in a majority group position, they preferred assimilation in that environment,” says Hehman.

What accounts for the flexibility of views on this seemingly fundamental principle? “We take a functional perspective,” says Hehman. “Both groups seek to enhance their collective group identities.” For the majority, he explains, “the feeling is: the other group can come join us and give up their values. That preference benefits the majority by maintaining the status quo with no cost to them.” Meanwhile, “the minority wants to maintain its group-esteem and cultural identity. It’s threatening when the majority wants to assimilate them.”

Citing the French ban of the Muslim veil as a well-intentioned assimilationist policy with hurtful consequences to a minority, Hehman says the findings could help coexistence in diverse nations. “It’s hard to integrate a to maintain minority identities and not make the majority feel their values are being rejected. Understanding these feelings and motivations could aid practices to satisfy the needs of both groups and avoid harming either one.”

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3.3 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2012
So the majority feels "we would like everybody to be like us," while the minority feels "we want to preserve our own identity." It would appear that pluralism can only thrive where there is no clear majority.
1.5 / 5 (16) Jan 05, 2012
from the article:
"the findings could help coexistence in diverse nations. Its hard to integrate a society to maintain minority identities and not make the majority feel their values are being rejected. Understanding these feelings and motivations could aid practices to satisfy the needs of both groups and avoid harming either one.

The study doesn't really take into account the "pride" of identity and the feelings of alienation and preference for one's own "group" when confronted with the majority, no matter who is in the majority. Complete respect and common decency for each group's members in any given framework is necessary for successful assimilation. The above link illustrates a minority's refusal to assimilate and the resulting chaos heaped upon the majority who does its best to welcome the minority even when it displays disdain for its host country. The minority are Muslims in this case.
2 / 5 (4) Jan 06, 2012
While I do not disagree with what you said: I find it very difficult to offer complete respect and common decency to a group who avow the destruction of anyone who does not follow their beleifs; such as in the case of Muslims, who think it is a great way to get to the afterlife rewards by killing 'infidels'; i.e., anyone who will not accept their muslim religion. And I also understand that this may only be true in the case of radical fundamentalist muslims. Also note; I take the same exception to radical fundamentalist christians, too. I no more condone what was done to the WTC on Sept 11th, than I do the Crusades, The Grand Inquisition, or any of the various witch hunts throughout history.

That said; I tend to get along well with anyone who is willing to offer mutual respect in our relations. I follow an old Scottish saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I'll bear the shame myself.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2012
When blacks were the dominant group, in a majority group position, they preferred assimilation in that environment
In AWT it's essentially the manifestation of surface tension phenomena at the society level. Inside of mixture of fluids (incl. foam) the small droplets/bubbles are evaporating/collapsing into account of these larger ones. The speed of this process is the higher, the larger the difference in the size of droplets/bubbles is. This effect could be predicted easily in AWT.
Majority groups support assimilation -- except when they're not majorities
They're still majority at the local level. This is example of "exception" which actually supports the rule. Why it's not presented so? Because such way of presentation makes the research more intriguing and less trivial. It's example of journalism in science: the researchers aren't motivated in mutual reconciliation of ideas, until they remain more significant in this environment in the same way like subjects researched.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2012
@argiod. . . .unfortunately, the foolish uberLiberalism/Socialism of the Swedish government is responsible for the misery that the native Swedish populace is and will be suffering at the hands of the Muslim foreigners as their numbers grow in comparison to the low birthrate of the Swedes. The Muslims are in the majority in some Swedish cities and, as in Norway, have been raping the women. In Sweden, Norway and Denmark, respect and tolerance is NOT a 2 way street with Muslims. There are plenty of horror stories coming out of those countries now. Obviously, their governments have made a grave mistake and the citizens are paying for that mistake. Assimilation or pluralism only seems to apply in the U.S. where MOST people are brought up to tolerate and respect strangers. I cannot imagine what will happen next in European countries. They might end up with a "Muslim solution", if you get my drift.

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