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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not sure if this great nation and great city of ours are "melting pots" or "stews"...or neither. I am curious as to what happens to any group that stays in nation (and a city) so diverse and with the ability to mix over a period of time. Can the qualities of such a group be retainedd...or are they inevitably lost?

I'd like to examine some of the main stream groups that were the bedrock of Chicago's massive European migration that extended throughout the last part of the 19th century and into the 20th.

To me, some fo the leading groups of European immigrants that so affected Chicago that I would like to examine here are:

• Irish

• Italians

• Poles (excluding the present wave of Polish immigration)

• Jews (culturally, not religously; excluding the present wave of Russian Jewish immigration)

• Germans


With the passage of time, when we look at these groups: Do they retain any significatn part(s) of their heritage or, for all intents and purposes, have they faded into that general category of being Americans far removed from their ethnic roots, something akin to the British roots that preceeded the revolution.

Are these European ethnics totally mixed into a society that is now in the process of making accomodations and a comfortable fit with an immigration wave that is largely Hispanic and Asian, not European?

So where do these five significant groups of Chicagoans (Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles, Germans) fit in in modern Chicago and modern Chicagoland?

Is what they brought with them from Europe still significant or has it been virtaully all "main streamed"?

In an attempt to clarify what distinctions I made above, let include the following:

Jews are viewed in an ethnic sense here due to their inability to feel a part of so many European nations in which their ancesters lived.

Both Poles and Jews were affected greatly by nearly a century of communism in eastern Europe. Thus today's groups of Russian Jews and Polish immigrants are vastly different from those who came to our shores a hundred years ago. Communism changed culture.

Jews among the five groups listed have the added component of religion and ethnicity being the same group. While this may have slowed Jewish assimilation and intermarriage down compared to other groups, Jews have totally "caught up" in this discriptor....thus while Italian, Irish and Polish Catholics were intermarrying earlier in their immigrant experience, Jews were not....but that trend has been vastly altered since WWII.

So what does it mean to be Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, or German in Chicagoland today? Does it extend beyond ethnic restaurants, a river dyed green, festive Italian weddings, Jewish country clubs, German delis and bakeries in Lincoln Square, cheering for European soccer teams, loving a Polish pope, supporting Israel?

So the basics here...how long does it take for ethnic minorities (as the five used as examples here in Chicagoland) before they totally "blend in" and intermarry to a point where their roots become a minor part of their American persona? (And whatever the answer, it would probably give us insight into what will happen with today's Hispanic and Asian immigration waves in the next few generations)
 

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As an Irish-American here in Chicago, I think that while we identify with America first, the Irish heritage and tradition is still important, although perhaps less so than 50 or so years ago...We have the Emerald Society, the St Pat's parades, bands like the Drovers or the Tossers (while vastly different from each other, both VERY Irish), and a strong sense of ethnic community, esp. on the south side.

What is gone is any true sense of persecution. We may reminisce about persecution of the Irish in America, and use our great-grandfather's tales to justify our opinions, for good or ill, on other groups struggling to make their way today, but the truth is we have been Americans for quite some time.

The only time it ever became real for me was working with the British army in Iraq. Then I really understood for the first time what still drives that age-old feud...
 

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being 6th generation chicago-german(northside) on my mom's side and 4th generation chicago-irish(southside) on my dad's side, i can safely say that all my "europeanness" has been compeltely bred out of me. i have no connections to europe, i don't have any relatives in europe, no one in my family that i knew ever lived in europe, and i don't really do anything that could be culturally decribed as "irish" or "german", outside of having an insatiable propensity for drink and sausage, which is more or less just a general "chicago" attribute nowadays anyway.

i'm fully 100% pure-blooded chicagoan, and that's all that really matters in my opinion. europe, to me, might as well be on mars for all i care.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
CPD said:
What is gone is any true sense of persecution. We may reminisce about persecution of the Irish in America, and use our great-grandfather's tales to justify our opinions, for good or ill, on other groups struggling to make their way today, but the truth is we have been Americans for quite some time.
CPD, do you have any idea how the above relates to the Jewish community, in Chicago and nationally? I would have to be totally naive to believe thaat anti-semitism doesn't exist or that it can raise its ugly head.

Yet more than anything, it has been the freedom of the US, the exposure to people with different beliefs, the intermixing that did more to break down traditonal Jewish separation for society at large than any Hitler could have accomplished. In 2000 or so years in Diaspora, no group of Jews has ever faced the change in demographics that comprehensive assimiliation creates. I say this as an observation, without any advocacy on my part.

Unless a group chooses to pull apart from society (i.e. Amish, Haissiddic Jews), it is virtually impossible to maintain its original cohesiveness in the type of enivronment we have in the US.

If I look at the history of Jewish Chicago and realize that first wave of massive immigrantion in the later part of the 19th century,, albeit a hardy and motivated group to cross the Atlantic to this strange new land, were more similiar to Jews 10, 12 generations before them. Look at what has happened to this community (in Chicago, in the US) in shorter than 200 years: assimilation, intermarriage, mainstreaming, loss of cultral identify, faith becomig less of an issue for many, etc.

That someone could have perdicted this in, say, 1890, would have been ludicrous, but the handwriting really was on the wall....an inevitability that an open society has on the various groups that make it home.
 

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I'm along the same lines as Steely. My ancestors all came to this nation so long ago that I don't really identify myself as the same nationality as they might have. Even my grandparents are this way. One of my grandmothers spoke Czech, but the other 3 grandparents were 2nd to 4th generation Americans. On top of that, I don't really have a dominant heritage. My ancestors were Irish, Scots Irish (there is a difference), French, German, and Czech, so none of them really stand out. I'm American and that's it.
 

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I'm not from Chicago, but I can safely say that my dad's herritage really doesn't matter much to me. Europe is at least 4 generations removed from that side of the family, and keep in mind my dad is old enough to be my grandfather (so it's more like 5 gens). But if anyone's curious, my European side consists of Welsh, Irish, and German ancestry.

My mom's side is a lot more recent: I'm second generation "Korean-American" (US citizen by birth). I still have lots of relatives there, so perhaps I'm a bit more culturally attached to that part of the world in some ways. It's easier to hold onto a lot more of one's ethnic traditions when one is surrounded by people of the same ethnicity. Having only one Asian parent and living in the South for most of my life means I've melted a hell of a lot more quickly than my counterparts on the West Coast or Northeast.

Now why I'm injecting Asia into this discussion you ask? It's an interesting comparison to make between the current immigration waves vs those from 100 or more years ago. I think each successive wave helps to "assimilate" those who are already here. Immigrants who are more recent will always be seen as more foreign than those who have been here at least two or three generations. It takes time to be accepted, it takes time to melt, but it eventually happens. We've been down this road before... and I generally see no problem with assimilation. Assimilation does not mean shedding all your ethnic herritage for an American one because that would imply that America is based on an ethnicity, something which I believe it's false. That's why I refuse to be called "Korean-American" or "Asian-American." I have no problems with other people refering to themselves as a hyphenated American, but I don't personally like being called that. And nothing will let you know of the stupidity of hyphenated Americanism better than a trip back to the old country, where they'll laugh at you for saying such a thing.
 

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Steely Dan said:
being 6th generation chicago-german(northside) on my mom's side and 4th generation chicago-irish(southside) on my dad's side, i can safely say that all my "europeanness" has been compeltely bred out of me. i have no connections to europe, i don't have any relatives in europe, no one in my family that i knew ever lived in europe, and i don't really do anything that could be culturally decribed as "irish" or "german", outside of having an insatiable propensity for drink and sausage, which is more or less just a general "chicago" attribute nowadays anyway.

i'm fully 100% pure-blooded chicagoan, and that's all that really matters in my opinion. europe, to me, might as well be on mars for all i care.
That's pretty much summarizes thoughts and experience...minus the insatiable propensity for sausage ;)
 

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It's changed to more of a Latino ethnic thing. Not so much of a focus on the aforementioned ethnic groups anymore.
 
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