Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Abstract

Although Latinos have been in the United States for many years, they have not been completely assimilated into mainstream American society. Separate Latino enclaves, as well as unique Latino cultural practices, demonstrate that Latinos have not fully assimilated. This article responds to those who advocate the use of legal means to ensure Latino assimilation. This article argues that one should reject pressure to assimilate, and instead recognize the worth of distinctive cultural traditions of Latinos and other minorities. Moreover, this article uses philosophical literature to designate important limits on the demand for Latinos and others to assimilate into dominant society. Therefore, the primary question to be addressed is whether the law should be used to coerce Latino assimilation. In doing so, this article seeks to help construct a new theoretical framework called Latino Critical Theory, a recent permutation of Critical Race Theory. Latino Critical Theory has emerged because of a perception that matters of concern to Latinos were not being addressed in race discourse.

In Part II, this article describes how sociological explanations of race have focused on the assimilation of ethnic groups into a majority culture. It discusses the subsequent development of a specific ideology of assimilationism based on previous racial discourse that has established assimilation as a powerful norm in American society. Part II concludes by explaining that assimilationism has had dire legal consequences for people of color who have been unable to fully assimilate.

Part III of the article discusses the recent concern of some commentators regarding Latinos and their alleged refusal to assimilate. It examines various efforts to use law and government policy to force Latinos to assimilate or to punish Latinos for failing to do so.

Drawing on work in philosophy, Part IV argues that law should not be used to force Latinos and other groups to fully assimilate. Instead, the law should recognize the worth of distinctive cultural traditions of Latinos and other minorities.

Publication Title

Chicano-Latino Law Review

Publication Date

1999

Document Type

Article

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