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Ethnic Leaders

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To the Editor:

Linda Chavez, in “Hispanics vs. Their Leaders” [October 1991], offers a painful contrast between the conduct of today’s radical and separatist Hispanic leaders and that of earlier ethnic leaders. But she is mistaken if she assumes, as she appears to, that Polish, Italian, German, Jewish, and other ethnic leaders of the past behaved as they did because of some innate common sense or good judgment.

Assimilation is a bitter pill to swallow, and an immigrant group will swallow it only if it has to. But the melting-pot ideal, so important in digesting previous waves of immigrants, is now derided or ignored by elite American opinion. We can hardly expect immigrant groups to assimilate if every signal—from the government, the churches, the media, the schools—tells them they don’t have to.

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