Nationalism in Minority Politics

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Nationalism in Minority Politics

  • Political Science 61 / Chicano/Latino Studies 64
  • October 25, 2007


  • Essay (67 percent of grade)
    • Clear thesis early in essay
    • Evidence from the reading and from lectures to substantiate the thesis
    • Outline – optional, but encouraged
  • Identifications (33 percent of grade)


  • Indian Civil Rights Act
  • 1968 legislation that explicitly made some but not all Bill of Rights guarantees applicable to Native Americans on reservations. Specifically, it provided for free speech, assembly, speedy trial, and equal protection of the laws. This legislation reflects the dual nature of Native American status in the United States that is a legacy of their origin as sovereign nations (and, hence, not directly covered by the U.S. constitution).

Nationalism—(Rhetorical) Counter Position to Pluralism

  • Pluralism – Primary goal of civil rights movement
    • Equal protection of the laws
    • Right to compete for national political and economic opportunities as equals
  • Nationalism takes alternative approach
    • Separate ethnic/racial population from American institutions to create group-based institutions
    • In some cases, separate form United States – “separatism”


  • Devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation
  • Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination
  • American Heritage Dictionary
  • Note that definition assumes that separate institutions lead to political separatism

Nationalism Never the Norm

  • Majority populations often ascribe nationalist beliefs to minorities (and fear them)
  • In reality, only intermittent appearances
  • More regularly appears among:
    • Native Americans
    • Puerto Ricans (for Puerto Rico)

Little Support at the Mass Level Today

  • Black support for assertion that blacks “should have their own separate nation”
    • 1968 – 7%
    • 1993 – 14%
      • Source: Smith, We Have No Leaders, pp. 80-81

Little Support 2: Mexican American Concern With U.S. or Mexican Politics

  • Source: Rodolfo de la Garza, et al., Latino Voices: Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban Perspectives on American Politics, pp. 103 and 179.

Nationalism, Nevertheless, Important

  • Offers a (rhetorical) resource of minority leaders
  • Explains distance among some in minority communities from U.S. political institutions
  • Majorities will continue to ascribe nationalist beliefs to explain low levels of minority empowerment
    • Calculated ignorance (preponderance of evidence always shows little support)
    • Blame the victim

Always an Underlying Risk in a Multi-Ethnic Society

  • If incorporative mechanisms fail and the United States does not live up to its aspirations
  • In the past, this has been more rhetorical, at least by leaders

Good Luck on the Midterm!

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