Expansion of the United States

In the 19th century, the United States expanded rapidly in population – through large families, immigration, and (initially) importation of African slaves. It also expanded rapidly in territory – through purchases, annexations, wars, and treaties. These changes led to a country with one of the most diverse populations in the world, but with government policies such as Jim Crow laws, Indian boarding schools, Exclusion acts, etc. that functioned to maintain a culture with a widespread belief in the necessity of conforming to the dominant white, Anglo-Saxon culture.

That tension between assimilation and identification with diverse cultural roots continues today in the U.S. and elsewhere. A few years ago, Absolut Vodka ran an ad in Mexican media that caused an uproar with some people in the United States.

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It depicted a map of North America with Mexico’s boundaries restored to those prior to the Mexican-American War. There are some opponents of increased immigration that believe that there is a deliberate strategy for Mexican immigrants to take over the Southwest. In 2010, Arizona’s controversial AB 1070 law was in part a reaction to the stresses of a large unassimilated immigrant population. In the years that followed, some other states passed similar laws. In recent years, the Trump administration began building a wall to separate Mexico from the U.S. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and now we have a new administration and continuing problems at the border

Given this recent history, what might be the relative merits of assimilation and diversity? Can you find artworks in chapter 3 that reflect assimilation? Or artworks that maintain cultural traditions or that reflect diversity in America? For more information on Expansion of the United States check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBDXibBJeP0

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