July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

The New Cultural Pluralism of the 1970s

2 min read
Statue of Liberty

The 1970s, an era so commonly referred to as “The Me Decade,” stood by this notion as America, a nation that was once a ‘melting pot’ was now the world’s greatest example of cultural pluralism. Much like each individual, each culture wanted to be unique, to make their values and practices accepted everywhere.

Once other nations saw the success of cultural pluralism in the United States and Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, making it easier for those in Asia, Africa, and the MIddle East to come to America, our nation’s demographics began to experience a significant shift. So much so that races that had never been included in the Census before were not receiving their own race category.

The difference between this generation’s immigrants–opposed to those of earlier American history–was that they were not coming to America destitute, with only their shirts on their backs. Immigrants from all nations came here, already established, looking to fit in with the American middle-class society.

During the 70s, there was a significant population migration within the Hispanic community. Migrant workers from Mexico traveled back and forth looking to make better wages in America. When Fidel Castro came into power during the late 70s, many successful professionals fled Cuba for greener pastures in America. The majority of these fleeing set up new residences and lives in the Miami, Florida, area. In 1979, these Cuban Americans had the highest median family incomes of all Hispanics in America. It is these immigrants that made Miami the thriving community that it is today.

Immediately following the Immigration Act of 1965, the Asian population exploded. In twenty years, the population rose from one million to five million. Whereas the original immigrants from Asia to America were poor and illiterate, these new Asian immigrants came from middle-class backgrounds and had professional and technical skills. By 1974, Asian immigrants made up one fifth of practicing physicians in the United States.

This isn’t to say that all migrating peoples of the 70s were affluent or near middle class. Furthermore, those that already resided in America were worse off than ever. In the 70s, between 35 and 45 percent of African American families rose to middle-class levels. However, those that didn’t sank into lower levels of poverty. In a 1978 finding, 8.7 percent of white families lived below the poverty line, compared to 30.6 percent of African American families. Native Americans, those first on this nation, suffered from 40 to 75 percent unemployment across various reservations. Furthermore, the average annual family income was about $1500.

With an influx of members from other nations, cultures began to bleed together. Thriving off the success of the National Civil Rights Movement, these new cultures found their place in America, often in harmony.