Sunday, March 20, 2016

Assimilation is the Natural Result of Tolerance

There is one sure way to eradicate an ethnic minority, but it is the complete opposite of what most people think. It is not through persecution, discrimination, harsh measures or intolerance that differences between and among people disappear. Distinct ethnic identities merge with the dominant culture exactly to the degree that they are shown tolerance and kindness and given an equal opportunity to thrive.

One example of how this works is seen in this video by Charlie Hyman about the Kaifeng Jews.

Here is an excerpt from Hyman's narration in the video:
"Treated as an untrustworthy community by the Yuan, the Jews of Kaifeng had their so-called Golden age during the reign of the Ming,...It is during this prosperous age that the Jews underwent extensive Sinification.... By 1489, the Kaifeng community matched their neighbors in dress, language and daily life... The Jews of Kaifeng adopted the practice of ancestor worship. ...They melded the teachings of Confucius and traditional Judaism... This vigorously autonomous group was almost completely absorbed into the greater Chinese community by the process of Sinification...  The key to this development was tolerance. Kaifeng citizens accepted their Jewish neighbors as equal. .
 ..Various dynasties have desperately tried to assimilate myriad cultures, with decidedly mixed results. Yet in a situation in which the Chinese authorities made little attempt to Sinify a populace, this foreign group became completely Chinese in almost every way. Simple acceptance and societal integration was all it took for the community to abandon their previous ways of life and essentially become Han....One has only to look at the emphatically independent Jews of pre-war Poland and Russia to know how little Jews assimilate when treated as the Other. But because the Ming never thought to hate and fear them, today in the streets of Kaifeng, the descendants of Jews and the descendants of ethnic Han walk side by side, indistinguishable. It begs the question: if China had treated the people of their nomadic frontier as equal, instead of as barbarians, would those 56 ethnic groups have dwindled one by one until only the Han remained?"

Had Hitler chosen to treat Jews in Europe as equals, he would more surely have eradicated Judaism than by setting up extermination camps. The surest way to erase differences between people is kindness. And the surest way to keep ethnic minorities strong is to set up barriers and build walls and establish ethnic quotas, as in affirmative action.

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  1. When you accept a people allow them to be who they are, and participate in the mainstream culture, people begin to assimilate. New Amsterdam, which later became New York, had a long history of tolerance. The Dutch allowed a Jewish community to settle there along with various Protestant groups that were persecuted through out Europe. In 1652 when the British captured New Amsterdam and renamed it New York, the residents stated the one thing they wanted to keep was religious tolerance. Some buffs of New Amsterdam believe that the history of religious tolerance here inspired the notion of freedom of religion in the US Constitution.

    1. Hi, Julia. The story of New Amsterdam is a good example of how accepting people leads to assimilation. I was actually inspired by you this morning to write this post.