Discuss the claim of the essay "The Chinese in All of Us" by Richard Rodriguez.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The essay "The Chinese in All of Us" encapsulates Richard Rodriguez's love for America.  When he was interviewed by Bill Moyers for a television news show, Moyers asked:

Do you consider yourself American or Hispanic?

I think of myself as Chinese," Rodriguez replied.

Despite having no oriental heritage, the author lives in San Fransisco which is predominately Asian, and predominately Chinese.  Living side by side, Rodriguez has begun to integrate many of their oriental customs.  That is America.  The immigrants bring with them their traditions and culture.  They embrace American customs, and America adopts many of theirs. 

His argument in the essay becomes then America is everyone who lives within its borders.  America is built by all of the the cultures and all of its diversity.  The variations in our lives come from the longstanding idea of people coming from all over the world to assimilate into the American way of life. 

I think that the adventure of living in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic America leaves one vulnerable to a variety of cultures, a variety of influences. 

As Americans,  everyone shares in the country's history. For example, to be an American, one must be a black American and share in their experiences--the slavery, the exhausting wait, and finally, the winning of their freedom and future.

Rodriguez's logic stands with merit.  America lives through its melding of lives, cultures, and heritages. 

kaseinpoint eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this essay, Rodriguez addresses why he still thinks of America as a melting pot, even though "Americans have been searching for a new multi-cultural metaphor for America" specifically because they "don't like the melting pot."

One of the alternatives presented to Rodriguez is the mosaic. Whereas the melting pot represents a melting together of different identities (Hispanic, Asian, European, etc.) into one large and homogenous "American" identity, the mosaic represents an America in which individual identities, as represented by the different pieces of glass, retain their own beauty but come together to form a beautiful piece of art composed of heterogeneous fragments.

Rodriguez's main problem with this conception, which he explores throughout the essay, is that the "pieces of glass are static." In other words, the conception of the mosaic requires that a Mexican identity is beautiful because its beauty is always identifiably Mexican, or an Asian identity is beautiful because it consistently remains Asian, playing its role in the beauty of the mosaic as one unchanging piece in a puzzle. Rodriguez argues that this enduring uniqueness is impossible and unlikely: exposure to America's multicultural environment will inevitably cause an Asian to identify a little as black or a Mexican to identify a little as Irish. Identity is more fluid than that, and this is one of Rodriguez's major points in his essay.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rodriguez's main claim in "The Chinese in All of Us" is that he is not defined by his inherited ethnicity but by the process by which he has become American. Living in San Francisco, he has become like Chinese people, as San Francisco is home to many Chinese people.

His larger point about culture is that it is not like a coat that we take off, a metaphor he uses to describe the way his critics think about culture. Instead, culture is, as he writes, "something we breathe and sweat and live." Living in the United States as a Mexican-American, he has become American through daily interactions with the culture. He feels that his critics are uncomfortable because this type of interaction has made him too much like them. As he says, "My culture is you. You created me. If you don't like it, too bad." Rodriguez argues that culture is an interactive process--not an unchanging entity--through which immigrants change America and it also changes them. 

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