The real reason why many Third-World immigrants cannot be successfully assimilated into America

VFR is pleased to publish the following article by noted academician Joseph Kay, who has an original explanation of why assimilation in the real sense is far more difficult than most people imagine. The author’s name is, of course, a pseudonym.

by Joseph Kay

Our open southern border has become an increasingly tough sell. Even fans of cheap labor now connect large-scale Third-World immigration with the prospect of the U.S. sinking into Third World depravity, so justifications grow ever more ingenious. To this end, open immigration proponent Tamar Jacoby, former Clinton cabinet secretary Henry Cisneros, former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and other establishment notables have recently created “Our Pledge,” a 501(C) 3 organization “devoted to advancing the inclusion of Latino immigrants into the fabric of American life.” Their argument is superficially almost irrefutable: America has for centuries successfully assimilated countless immigrants to make America great, so if we try harder to integrate the current crop of newcomers, America will again benefit, just as we profited by incorporating millions of Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews and all else arriving before today’s Mexicans. Rhetorically it is a no-brainer—how can anyone oppose assimilation?—and thus it brilliantly neutralizes opposition.

Arguing by historical parallel is hardly fool-proof, and there are serious empirical questions as to whether current Mexican newcomers can, indeed, follow the assimilation path. This is, moreover, a huge gamble—what if the borders are opened, and the newcomers (plus those already here) cannot properly be digested? Do we return failures back to sender, even if they are citizens? Perhaps we should first solicit the French or Danes about failed assimilation.

Some qualms—especially Mexican proclivity to keep in touch with their homeland via the media or cheap transportation—are familiar, and need no repeating. More fundamental, and almost never broached, is whether fresh arrivals can learn to be Americans, even if they tried and were helped through all the resources that Our Pledge hopes to muster. The answer is unclear, and may not be what Jacoby et al. fantasize.

Assimilation is complicated and should be thought of as a series of rungs on a ladder or a series of tests, not a one-shot “pass/fail” exam. These rungs may be thought of as: (1) popular culture; (2) English language; (3) cultural attachment and patriotism; and (4) political understanding.

The first rung, or the first test, which we could call simply “being American,” is easily passed: one adopts American cultural tastes—dress, rooting for sports teams, and similar outward signs of community membership. No after-school programs are required; it almost always occurs spontaneously just by living here. The next step up is correctly speaking English, critical since language mastery is a pre-condition for deeper, more nuanced absorption. This involves passing the “telephone test,” i.e., can a listener on the phone discern the immigrant’s race/ethnicity by accent or language use? This can be difficult: millions of African Americans, despite life-time residence, have not surmounted this hurdle. By contrast, young Asians typically quickly become fluent English speakers despite arriving here as twelve-year olds knowing only Chinese, or at least the children of the Asian immigrants do so. Whether future generations of Mexican immigrants can pass this hurdle remains to be seen.

The third rung is patriotism, having a deep psychological attachment to America as a nation. This was once the schools’ central mission as reflected in the teaching of American history, the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, celebration of national holidays, and similar rituals. The prognosis here for Mexican assimilation is moderately positive though by no means certain. The good news is that the emotion-based attachment to America can be gained by anybody, regardless of ability, so the key question is whether it will occur, e.g., will Mexican-Americans just become Americans? This may be the best Our Pledge can accomplish, and on those grounds, it deserves our support.

But now comes the toughest test: acquiring and internalizing the political culture of the United States. This is what separates the democratic civilized West from Third-World autocracy and depravity. It entails many things: respect for the rule of law and the concept of the loyal opposition, opposition to the use of political force, willingness to let opponents plead their cases, support for elections—not violence—as the way to settle disputes, attachment to due process and the primacy of individual rather than group rights, suspicion of aggrandized power (the caudillo), and myriad other sometimes hazy mental habits that define America’s political culture. Many who pass the first three tests fail this last exam. Wearing American clothes, eating at McDonalds, and enjoying American popular music imply nothing about being able to embrace our civic life. Just watching African rioters bedecked in Nike sweat suits who know all about Madonna’s latest hit ought to confirm that political society involves more than clothing and pop culture.

And here is the bad news. This last test, perhaps the most critical for the quality of civic life, is not easily passed, and if the basic ability is lacking, no amount of schooling or indoctrination may suffice. Many residents—even citizens—find this final hurdle arduous. Though given perfunctory attention in schools, it is more like vocabulary that one unthinkingly absorbs than long-division that one laboriously masters. A person doesn’t know, and can’t explain, why he personally prefers elections over assassinations. To be very un-PC about it, African Americans, despite being Americans for centuries, still struggle with our political culture except when required to live under “white rules.” It is no accident that black-run American cities—East St. Louis, Newark and Camden, New Jersey, Stockton, California, Washington, DC, Gary, Indiana, among innumerable others, almost uniformly differ drastically from white, “good government” cities such as Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota. White residents flee the onset of “black power” because they recognize that this about-to-be-imposed political culture is totally alien to their own. While this problem is more easily understood in reference to blacks, because of their long established presence in the U.S. and their politically dominant position in many American cities, the same applies mutatis mutandis to Mestizos and to cities taken over by Mestizos, which rapidly cease to have anything resembling good government in the American sense of the term.

There is a simple explanation for this pattern: mastering American political culture requires a minimum level of intelligence. If this level of intelligence is absent, the fundamental requisite principles cannot be grasped, in the same way that algebra cannot be learned by young children. Factual knowledge is irrelevant here—what’s needed is the ability to think abstractly, deal with seemingly contradictory propositions, and draw non-obvious conclusions. Consider the loyal opposition, a concept that joins two incongruous elements, namely that a person is both loyal to his government and criticizing it at the same time. Ditto for the rule of law: the person upholds laws despite a possible immediate personal disadvantage, because he knows that lawlessness is bad for everyone. Or letting one’s enemies speak freely, since such generosity permits future reciprocity and may facilitate truth emerging. Or seeing the long-term personal advantage of preventing the government from confiscating a neighbor’s property so as to give it to you.

These specific political culture building blocks require ample mental gymnastics, the analytical ability to prefer non-obvious utilities over and above immediate concrete pay-offs, and a knack for seeing costs/benefits in universal, over-the-horizon terms. Add a capacity for sequential thinking—the caudillo might cut rents in half, but that “help” will kill housing investment, engender capital flight across the economy, reduce housing maintenance, ensure that demand exceeds supply, and ultimately make benefit recipients worse off; so it is better to forego immediate gratification. Political culture and intelligence are inescapably linked. It is no accident that nations that are deficient in cognitive talent favor the same political style despite huge variation in language, history, and religion. Tyranny, corruption, and violence are the norm in low-IQ societies. IQ reflects mental age, and we see everyday what happens in societies where the average mental age is 11, corresponding with an IQ of 70, as is the case in sub-Saharan Africa. Even among groups whose average IQ is substantially higher than that of African blacks, such as American blacks, with average IQ of 85, and Hispanics, with average IQ of 90 (though there is circumstantial evidence that the average IQ of Mexican Mestizos who are coming to the U.S. is closer to 85), the average intelligence of thee groups is still substantially lower than that of white Europeans, with average IQ of 100.

The bottom line for America is that lower intelligence immigrants can alter our political culture. It is not that a certain number of non-learners in the population automatically subvert civic life; it is the average that matters. Compare New York City, which has many lower intelligence people but also many higher intelligence people, with Newark, New Jersey. Sustaining the American political culture requires maintaining a balance. Former white-majority cities in the Southwest where Mexican Mestizos become the majority can “tip,” in the same way that schools are “tipped” by racial integration.

And now for the really bad news. Intelligence cannot be taught or significantly boosted via early childhood programs, enhanced nutrition, or similar interventions. At most, a few IQ points can be added to overcome early sensory deprivation or malnutrition. Mass media stories of “IQ enhancing miracles” inevitably turn out to be exaggerated or fraudulent. (See Herman Spitz’s The Raising of Intelligence.) Thus even the most hopeful and energetic “assimilation” enterprise will fail to impart America’s political culture to newcomers if the newcomers lack a modicum of cognitive ability.

In conclusion, what Our Pledge offers is a gigantic and uncertain gamble. Let us not confuse outward assimilation—wearing NASCAR insignia or even a business suit—with political assimilation. Without the latter, America will not be America.

- end of Joseph Kay article, end of initial entry -

Hannon writes:

Joseph Kay’s remark, “Tyranny, corruption, and violence are the norm in low-IQ societies,” reminded me of statistics I’ve read about some portions of the Latino demographic we have allowed into America. Violence and gangsterism are growing in many large cities thanks in part to subpopulations of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans and others who have brought the worst criminal aspects of their home culture with them. What many do not realize is the extreme pathology of this subculture and how their behavior differs radically from similar black or white or Asian elements. In recent news you may have read about Latino gangs in Los Angeles deliberately stalking and murdering blacks—regular citizens, not gang members—at random to terrorize them and induce a certain outcome in neighborhood demographics. A few years ago I read about gangs in Los Angeles, world capital of this “life choice,” and it was a shock to read that the murder rate among Latino gangs is per capita five times that of black gangs in LA. Part of the reason this is an obscure fact is that politically and culturally Latinos are quiet and stoic compared to blacks; they are averse to making noise about their own business, even when they have legitimate grievance.

Kay briefly alludes to American blacks in terms of their distinct political culture but says even less about Latino political culture. Anything that can be elaborated about this culture (and others) and its roots in the various countries of origin will be essential in reformulating immigration policy.

In much of Latin America corruption reigns from common thievery to the highest public and private positions, with violent gangs occupying opportunistic positions throughout. The invasion of this aspect of Latin culture should be reason enough for us to tighten immigration standards and demonstrate that we will devise better filters to obtain a better class of immigrant.

James M. writes:

Joseph Kay argues that a mark of the “democratic civilized West” is a “willingness to let opponents plead their cases.” The fact that he has to use a pseudonym is proof that undemocratic and uncivilized forces already have a great deal of power in the West. Talking about race and IQ has been made heretical by Marxists like Stephen Jay Gould. Destroying the old white Christian order is made much easier and quicker by mass immigration, which is an act of war in all but name.

Bert R. writes:

IQ is one measure where there is a significant difference in it’s distribution between racial groups. However there are others which are possibly more relevant for a civil society, for example racial and ethnic differences in psychopathic personality, on which Professor Richard Lynn has a paper, “Racial and ethnic differences in psychopathic personality”:


This paper proposes that there are racial and ethnic differences in psychopathic personality conceptualised as a continuously distributed trait, such that high values of the trait are present in blacks and Native Americans, intermediate values in Hispanics, lower values in whites and the lowest values in East Asians. Part one of the paper sets out the evidence for this thesis. Part two applies the thesis to the unresolved problem in The Bell Curve that racial and ethnic differences in a number of social phenomena such as crime, welfare dependency, rates of marriage, etc. cannot be fully explained by differences in intelligence and proposes that some of the residual disparities are attributable to differences in psychopathic personality. Part three of the paper integrates the theory with Rushton’s r-K theory of race differences.

Stephen T. writes:

The video of the comment by the official at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego points out a shortcoming in Joseph Kay’s otherwise good article on assimilation. It’s a good article, that is, if one is writing about the assimilation of almost any immigrant group other than Mestizo Mexicans. Kay writes: “More fundamental, and almost never broached, is whether fresh arrivals can learn to be Americans,” and then he talks about the reasons why maybe they can’t. The facile tone of the Mexican official’s remark however, makes it again clear that with Mexicans, the real issue is not whether they are able to assimilate or not, or can pass some battery of “tests” to prove that they are, but whether they have any desire to do so. Or any belief that they will ultimately need to, given their growing force of numbers.

I’m guessing that Joseph Kay is a Northeasterner, and not intimate with the realities of the Mestizo Mexican mentality. He probably imagines them as basically good-intentioned peasants, but sort of individually clueless—perhaps due to low IQ—as to why they have come here and what their future is in this country. As such, they need some sort of “plan” to help them sort things out. And he wonders whether they can surmount the rigorous tests necessary to verify that they have done so.

Well, Mexicans already HAVE a plan! And they don’t think they have to pass no stinkin” tests, neither. Listen to their own pop songs, read their popular literature. They are very clear about this and they are telling you in 1,000 ways—1,001 now, counting the video of the Mexican consular. See how that remark rolled off the consul’s tongue as spontaneously and uninhibited as Karl Rove quipping that we need more illegal immigrants so his kids will never have to pick crops or make their own beds. It’s obviously something he’s said thousands of times in private and is basic bedrock belief to him. He’s NOT confused or yearning for clarification.

The Mexican plan is not in any way contingent upon the Mestizo’s genetic aptitude for adopting, or not, the European American way. Nor are they going to stay up all night cramming for the exam. And the Mexican Consulate couldn’t care less what the mean IQ is of the next million of their countrymen who illegally cross that border—just as long as they damn well get here.

LA replies:

I agree with Stephen’s observations. Ever since I began to write about the problems of immigration and assimilation, my emphasis has been on cultural/national identification and loyalty, not on differences of intelligence. Mr. Kay seems to think that identification with American cultural norms and loyalty to America comes easily, even automatically to people from non-Western cultures. The developments in America over the last 40 years demonstrate the opposite.

I also prefer to emphasize the cultural identity argument over the intelligence argument because the former avoids the question of superiority/inferiority. It is not my main position that non-Westerners should not be allowed to immigrate into the West because they are less intelligent than whites—that, after all, is an argument that would lead us to letting ourselves be taken over by the billion-strong Chinese. Rather non-Westerners should not immigrate into the West simply because they are different from us, with different cultures, different histories, different collective identities and agendas as peoples, different mental outlook, different physical and racial type producing different aesthetic ideals, and on and on. Among those differences are differences of intelligence. I agree with Mr. Kay that the lower intelligence of Mestizos and blacks is, in and of itself, a persuasive reason to stop their mass immigration into this country. But, in my view, that argument should be seen as just one part of the overall argument that non-Westerners are unassimilable to our cultural norms and identity. It is true, as I always say, that a small number of individuals of non-Western background may adopt Western ideals and loyalties and join the Western society without changing it. But such cultural assimilation is impossible when we’re speaking of millions of non-Western immigrants changing the very nature of the society.

On the question of Mexican IQ, Joseph Kay writes:

Lynn and Vanhanen (IQ and Global Inequality) estimate the Mexican national IQ at 88 (p. 241). This is based on a mix of 30 percent Indian, 60 percent Mestizo and nine percent European. The IQ of recent illegal Mexican immigrants is probably no higher—probably lower given their U.S. occupations and extraordinarily high drop out rates.

Whether a three point difference in the average between Mexicans and blacks for acquiring the political culture [matters] is an open question. Let me also note that group differences in IQ are most marketed in dealing with abstractions, and the political culture demands a firm grasp of these abstractions.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 15, 2008 11:14 PM | Send

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