Essay on Race, Identity and Migration: 30 Years of Debate and Impact on Americans

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1364 Words
Date:  2022-12-29

There have been debates around race, identity, and migration over the past thirty years and such discussions have led to a cross-disciplinary boundary exciting academic dialog. The topic of race, identity, and migration are not as light as many could perceive as it is an issue that has a significant impact on most of the Americans lives, both the whites and the nonwhites. The new globalization process has intensified and is a substantial reason for the spurred discussions. On the other hand, such debates also persist due to the persistent focus on local everyday life realities. The public has also had its imagination captured by the questions of citizenship, racial identification, and ethnic pride, and this has produced a robust and frequent historical commentary on belonging and identity. As historians like Margaret Jacob, Lynn Hunt, and Joyce Appleby state, "Because history and historical evidence are so crucial to a people's sense of identity, the evidence itself often becomes the focus of the struggle." There is an active involvement by faculty in REM in pedagogy and research engaging both the historical evidence and history on race, ethnicity, and migration both as outcomes and processes, which leads to the creation of both historical contexts and innovative scholarship to foster the understanding of these complex phenomena.

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In the developed countries, ethnicities, diversities of cultures, and races have become rich due to migration. When an individual migrates, they are most likely to experience a variety of stresses which leads to them having some impact of mental well-being, like the loss of religious customs, cultural norms, and social support systems. In fact, in some migrant groups, there is an increased rate of mental illness. To assess and address this increasing need of the vulnerable populations, mental health practitioners should have a clear understanding of the cultural aspects and the unique stresses affecting immigrants and refugees.

According to Bhugra and Becker (2005), when an individual loses his social structure and culture, they are most likely to experience a grief reaction. Likewise, migration involves the loss of familiar things such as language, values, support networks, social structures, and attitudes. Whereas people can see grief as a result of this loss as being a natural consequence and normal reaction of migration, the symptoms could lead to significant impairment or distress which could last for an extended period warranting the intervention of psychiatric specialist (Bhugra & Becker, 2005). The authors further define another concept of cultural deprivation, which according to them, is the experience that an uprooted person or a group of people faces as a result of the lost cultural values, social structures, and self-identity. Such individuals continue living in the past, and while they are awake or asleep, they are visited by supernatural forces from the past, they experience the experience of guilt for abandoning their homeland and culture. If the memories begin to fade, such individuals also feel pain, and they find constant images of the past like the traumatic images which intrude into their daily lives.

After Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of people got displaced mostly from the New Orleans and the Gulf Coast residents who were mostly the African Americans and the extremely poor. For some days, the pictures of these people filled the media with a spraining account of individuals who the media later referred to as refugees. There was a provoked vociferous and rapid response by the label of refugee, by people who believed that such a title was racist and that the situation was not an outsiderhood (Calavita, 2007). Social sciences over time have highlighted the role played by the Immigration department of the US and its naturalization laws in the development of racial categories as well as the role that race has played in the shaping of these laws over time. Scholars have notably pointed out that the 1790 decree of naturalization was limited to the white persons. The statute aimed to bar the naturalization of Africans who were subject to forced migration and the immigrants deemed nonwhites. Not until the mid-twentieth century, the naturalization limitation to those unqualified as whites only got lifted on an ad hoc basis. Following the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the civil war, the possibility of naturalization of nonwhites got extended under the Naturalization Act of 1870 for the persons of African descent and African native. The Chinese had their naturalization bar lifted in 1943, Filipino and Indians in 1946; all these groups had been previously declared nonwhites by the US courts (Calavita, 2007).

According to Lavadenz (2005) in Chapter six, the immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador went through a lot of experiences. These immigrants went through what is referred to as silencing and a sense of invisibility since they had to monitor and edit their unique varieties of Spanish and some of their national culture aspects. Besides, there was also the aspect of the race when the US government refused to give legal status to the refugee while providing the same to the immigrants whose origins were from the Communist nations making the immigrant populations to be targeted for deportation (Lavadenz, 2005). The underclass status of the Salvadorans and the Guatemalans cast an invisibility deep shadows in their schools and neighborhoods. According to Lavadenz (2005), indeed, there is a great need for the educators to make positive contributions towards the survival and resiliency needed by their Central American students to overcome the traumas of immigration and war.

In another study by Bailey (2000), he stated that the ability of an individual to speak varieties of Spanish and English would allow Dominican Americans to situationally align themselves with the other people from diverse social classes. However, he goes ahead stating that this also differentiated them from the other people who were not American and Dominican. Race and identity have a significant impact on migration policies especially in the West and in the US. The three variables of race, identity, and migration all have effects on each other. However, race is a more significant aspect that has seen most of the nonwhites, especially African Americans to face a lot of segregations and divisions within the United States. Identity is an essential thing in each, and every individual's life and no one can ever escape from their identities or deny themselves. It has however led to stereotyping in the US where people of color are associated with certain behaviors leading to special regulation on them by the state government and by default through their social systems (Bhugra & Becker, 2005). The topic of race, identity, and migration are not as light as many could perceive as it is an issue that has a significant impact on most of the Americans lives, both the whites and the nonwhites.


Bailey, B. (2000). Language and negotiation of ethnic/racial identity among Dominican Americans. Language in Society, 29(4), 555-582.

Bhugra, D., & Becker, M. A. (2005). Migration, cultural bereavement and cultural identity. World psychiatry, 4(1), 18.

Calavita, K. (2007). Immigration law, race, and identity. Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci., 3, 1-20.

Lavadenz, M. (2005). Como hablar en silencio (like speaking in silence): Issues of language, culture, and identity of Central Americans in Los Angeles. Building on strength: Language and literacy in Latino families and communities, 93-109.,+culture,+and+identity+of+central+americans+in+los+angeles&ots=uRFKPhFvRv&sig=9htpHqnzcOQD1gzr3o6QpBOLcAI

Rumbaut, R. G. (1994). The crucible within: Ethnic identity, self-esteem, and segmented assimilation among children of immigrants. International migration review, 28(4), 748-794.

Silverstein, P. A. (2005). Immigrant racialization and the new savage slot: race, migration, and immigration in the new Europe. Annu. Rev. Anthropol., 34, 363-384.

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