26 May 2014

Assimilation or Acculturation?


Patel, Jay. “To Assimilate or Acculturate.” Interpolations: A Jornal of Academic Writing n. pag. Web. Spring 2012.

The essay, “To Assimilate or to Acculturate” stresses the impact that assimilation can have on an individual’s identity. The author of the essay uses his own experiences and the idea’s of others to support this idea in an essay he wrote for the Sociology Department at his college, The University of Maryland.  In his essay he focuses on both the positive and negative impacts that assimilation can have on an individuals identity.  Although he points out that in many ways it would be easier for all people to accept assimilation in order to be accepted by their peers who make up the cultural majority,  he also emphasizes the negative effects it can have on ones identity.  For example, he mentions how the loss of ones old cultural identity can make it much harder to relate to friends and family who may be living a lifestyle that still fully incorporates ones original cultural traditions and practices.  He even mentions that his assimilation had a negative influence on his relationships with his parents who seemed disappointed with how quickly he abandoned their Indian culture to accept the traditions and cultures of mainstream America. However, he also makes it clear in his writing that he greatly benefitted from assimilating because it allowed him to be accepted by his peers and that most young children from other cultures are in many ways forced to assimilate if they want to ever have a chance of blending in with the crowd.  For this reason, he mentioned that he had learned to start eating the typical American foods for lunch in order to not be criticized or to prevent him self from seeming different than everyone else around him.  The author of this essay explained that by assimilating in such a way, he was, “more comfortable being a part of society and no longer felt like an outsider.”  He was sick and tired of being asked questions or hearing rude comments whenever he brought in a traditional Indian snack such as “handvo” to lunch.  It was just easier for him to conform by bringing some typical American snacks such as cookies and sandwiches.
         This part of the essay about changing what he brings to lunch in order to fit in reminded of Jin Wang’s own experience in the graphic novel American Born Chinese. In the story, Jin was often ridiculed or asked rude disrespectful questions whenever he brought traditional Chinese foods for lunch. In fact, one punky kid even suggested that Jin was eating dog.  Just like the author of this essay, Jin felt that he would be better off if he abandoned his own cultural traditions in order to adopt the typical American ones.  To avoid being made fun of as well as trying to gain acceptance amongst his white peers, Jin started eating foods that were considered more “normal” for the typical American boy to eat for lunch. 
      This essay in many ways inspired my thesis for my next essay. For example, I plan on arguing that whenever someone is growing up in a family with a different cultural background than the typical white majority of the United States, that an individuals’ personal identity will benefit most from acculturating rather than assimilating.  The author mentions how in many ways as he grew older he wishes he could have retained more of his Indian culture that he was more in touch with as a child. The author explains how he gradually lost his fluency in two different native Indian languages that he used to be able to speak really well when he had lived in India with his grandparents.  Multiple times throughout his essay the author emphasizes that the youth and older generations view assimilation in many different ways.  The older generations try as much as possible to hold on to their own traditional beliefs and customs. The younger generations in the United States seem to be eager to fit in to become part of the crowd. They are too afraid to stand out and simply want to do whatever would be easier for them to make new friends.  However, the author talks about his own regrets of assimilating too quickly. In many ways, he feels that when someone assimilates that they are giving up what makes them unique and special when compared to everyone else.  As a result of his guilt over assimilating and losing much of his Indian cultural identity, the author discusses how he makes sure he does certain things such as attend temple regularly to be able to hold on to as much of his Indian cultural identity as possible. He points out that it might be best for people to acculturate instead in order to stand out from the crowd as an individual rather than being just like everyone else. 

         Last but not least, although the author of this essay and I agree that acculturation is the best choice for someone coming from a different culture into a new one, his essay also makes many strong claims against acculturation. He provides evidence that argues for both sides of this argument but definitely makes it clear that it is much easier and natural for young children to assimilate when they are entering a new society with a culture that is nothing like their own.  He stresses that many children who want to avoid feeling alienated from their new peers, attempt to blend in with the rest of society. Joining the major society gives immigrants an initial feeling of being welcome into the new nation.” Although, the author understands this idea better than most due to his own experiences, he clearly feels that acculturation is the better choice for all. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Be sure to bring up both sides of his argument in your essay!

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