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Cultural pluralism is where minority groups participate fully in the dominant society, yet maintain their cultural differences. Group separatism refers to the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental and gender separation from the larger group, while one-way assimilation describes policies aimed at the assimilation of ethnic groups, where equality is the professed goal. In the two articles, cultural pluralism and group separatism are seen. However, one-way assimilation is only seen in C.P Ellis by Studs Terkel, but not in Boy in The Mirror by James McBride.

In both articles, cultural pluralism is seen through the behavior and attitude of the people involved. In The boy in the mirror it is seen in the writer’s mother’s behavior and attitudes, and in C.P Ellis it is seen through the attitude and behavior of a group of people. In C.P Ellis, the blacks were willing to support a white man in his quest to be the business manager of the union, but they were not letting go of their black culture. They just wanted everyone to get along and were willing to elect a white leader to make sure this happens. They knew his background and he was also honest and open to them, by telling them of his background as an ex-Klansman. This is seen where C.P Ellis says, “I was beginning to look at a black person, shake hands with him, and see him as a human bein’. I hadn’t gotten rid of all this stuff, I’ve still got a bit of it.” And also in the place where the black women had no objections to selecting him, “Any questions?” “No,”the black ladies said. “Let’s get on with the meeting, we need Ellis. I won one thirty-four to forty-one.” (C.P Ellis: pg 60).

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In “The Boy In The Mirror”, the writer’s mother was an orthodox Jewish rabbi, but married to an African American Christian minister. Despite this, she did not forget where she came from. She shopped in Jewish stores, where the prices were fairer with her black-skinned children, and also spoke the Jewish language, Yiddish (a dialect of German spoken by Eastern European Jews). In addition to this, she made sure that her twelve children went to schools that had Jews, so that they may somehow learn the Jewish culture. In this phrase, “Mommy would take us down to Delancey Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to shop for school cloths. “You have to go where the deals are,” she said. “They won’t come to you.”  “Where are the deals?” we asked.  “The Jews have the deals, she would drive them to the wall, haggling them to death, lapsing into Yiddish when the going got tough, if we were lucky enough to come across the right Jew in our travels – a teacher, a cop, a merchant – he would be kinder than other white folks”. The writer shows how the mother was willing to mingle and learn from other cultures. It was in her sense of education more than any other that mommy conveyed her Jewishness to us. She admired the way Jewish parents raised their children to be scholastic standouts, insulating them from a potentially harmful and dangerous public school system.

One-way assimilation is portrayed through the equality of different ethnic groups. In C.P Ellis, Klan was called by the councilmen to attend meetings, where blacks would be the majority in attendance. They were called to even out the attendants. “We would go to the meetings, and the blacks would be there and we’d be there. It was a confrontation every time. It wasn’t long before councilmen would call me up: “The blacks are comin’ up tonight and makin’ outrageous demands. How about some of you people showin’ up and have a little balance?” (Boy In The Mirror: pg 29). This is not seen in Boy in The Mirror. There is no equality seen in the blacks, the Jewish people and the whites.

Group separatism is seen in both articles as racial groups gather together to achieve certain goals. In C.P Ellis, the Klan was a group of whites that separated themselves from other whites and other people. They saw themselves as low-income earning whites, who worked hard and followed the law, but were not able to make ends meet. “ It (The Klan) was the only organization in the world that would take care of white people.” (C.P Ellis: pg 15). In The Boy In The Mirror, the blacks had their own private schools while the Jews had their own.


From the two articles we see that the three ethnic models in American Ethnic Relations i.e. one-way assimilation, group separatism and cultural pluralism were practiced a lot in the past. America has come a long way in trying to make all races equal and Martin Luther King Jr. played a key role in ensuring this was done and was, therefore, assassinated for it. One-way assimilation and group separatism are being discouraged today, while cultural pluralism is encouraged to bring peace to the people and allow them to work together as one people no matter where they are from or who they are.

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