Adversities of Immigrant Community Every year, over one million immigrants leave all that they know to come to the land of opportunity, The United States. Immigrants choose to come to the US for a myriad of reasons – from the desire to live in freedom to creating a better life for their families.
With leaving their homelands, comes leaving behind a culture they familiarize with into a culture that is not within their norms. This presents a great pressure amongst immigrants to assimilate to these new American customs. The experiences traditionally associated with immigrants moving into an American society present additional difficulties for immigrants trying to assimilate into a new culture while retaining their heritage. Within American society, immigrants feel the need to assimilate into American culture primarily to be accepted by society. Leaving behind their homelands and moving into a new land with a new overall atmosphere, leaves the immense innate pressure on immigrants to adapt to this new atmosphere. In the article “Migration, cultural bereavement and cultural identity” by Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr.Dinesh Bhugra describes the process of migrating in three stages. “The first stage is pre-migration, involving the decision and preparation to move.
The second stage, migration, is the physical relocation of individuals from one place to another. The third stage, post migration, is defined as the “absorption of the immigrant within the social and cultural framework of the new society” (Bhugra) It is in this third stage where immigrants are beginning to absorb the environment around them and begin to feel this great pressure to adhere to this new atmosphere. A psychosocial change immigrants face at this stage is assimilation. Assimilation can be described as “a process by which cultural differences disappear as immigrant communities adapt to the majority or host culture and value system.” (Bhugra) In this process, the cultural identity of an immigrant is slowly diminished as they adhere to their host nation’s culture.
Assimilation is essentially a two-way process in the sense that the majority and minority culture is changed. On the contrary, “Acculturation, a process that may be voluntary or forced, requires contact between culturally divergent groups of people and results in the assimilation of cultural values, customs, beliefs and language by a minority group within a majority community (8).” Acculturation is a two-way process where the minority culture changes but is still able to withhold their unique cultural identities.
“Assimilation is an innate behavior caused by migration. Some Immigrants “choose” to migrate and willingly interact with the majority culture of their host nation (19). ” (Patel) Immigrants feel the need to assimilate because they feel unaccepted by the majority culture. To avoid this feeling, immigrants feel the pressure to blend in with their host nation to avoid the feeling of rejection from American Society. Rather than acculturating and adopting this new culture whilst maintaining their own, they are assimilating and losing pieces of their culture while they are adhering to this new atmosphere. However, some argue immigrants should not have to feel the need to assimilate to be accepted by American Society. “The question of what it should actually mean to become American had been debated for decades. The term “assimilation” was resisted by some immigrant advocates because it suggested that people arriving from other lands were obliged to give up their distinctive histories and embrace the dominant culture in their new homeland.
” (The Atlantic) Althoughsome feel the need to assimilate to American culture to be accepted by society, others argue immigrants shouldn’t feel obligated to give up their heritage to be accepted by society. In 2006, the George W. Bush administration established the Task Force of representatives from 12 cabinet departments on New Americans. This Task Force’s goal was to embrace diversity and national unity by explaining the cultural and political aspects of a new citizen’s identity. “The cultural sphere—traditions, religion—is up to the individual,” (The Atlantic) they concluded. “The Task Force focuses on the shared common identity that binds us as Americans in the political sphere.” Government policies should concern “not cultural but political assimilation,” which the group defined as “embracing the principles of American democracy, identifying with U.
S. history, and communicating in English.” (The Atlantic) Although some may feel the pressure to assimilate in order to be accepted, others argue immigrant should not have to give up their heritage to be accepted and rather acculturate than assimilate. However, for younger first generation students in a school setting, many of these first-generation immigrant children coming of age may adhere to this pressure. Many first-generation immigrants are faced with adversities as they come of age. They are faced with the predicament of assimilating to American culture that is evident around them in their everyday settings whilst keeping the ideals of their culture that are evident in their households.
According to a research published online on March 1, 2012, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, “After controlling for several demographic variables, findings indicate that immigrant youth are more likely to experience bullying victimization than native-born youth.” To avoid this feeling of rejection and mistreatment, immigrant youth are losing all ties to their culture to blend in with the majority American culture. In the essay, “To Assimilate or to Acculturate?” by Jay Patel he speaks volumes about his experiences as an immigrant youth.
“Students used to stare in bewilderment when I brought handvo, a traditional Gujarati snack, to lunch. Pointing fingers, they maliciously asked “Eww what’s that? What’s it made of? Why does it smell like that?” as I slowly pulled it out of my lunchbox. Slowly I found it easier to disguise my Indian background by eating sandwiches and cookies, what “normal” American children ate for lunch.
It was an easier task for me to adapt to my host nation rather than my host nation adapting to me. By doing this, I was assimilating, and this way I felt more comfortable being a part of society and no longer felt like an outsider.” (Patel) Rather than acculturating and contributing to the diversity of his school, he abandoned his culture to assimilate or “fit in” with his peers.
Patel is not the only immigrant youth who has experienced bullying or the feeling of being out of place. Many immigrants become ashamed of their culture, a factor that contributes to their decision to assimilate rather than to acculturate. Joanna Sliwakowski depicts her experiences as an immigrant youth in her article, “My Polish Heritage.” “I remember being in grade school and thinking, why do I have to be Polish, why can’t I just be like everybody else? Little did I know that not everybody is the same, that we are all different and diverse in our own way. I started to feel out of place, almost as if I didn’t belong.
As a result, I found myself hiding my Polish heritage, and I would quickly become embarrassed when my parents spoke Polish to me, especially when my friends were around.” Joanna similar to Jay decided to abandon her culture to paint herself like the majority culture to leave behind the feeling of being out of place and welcoming the comfort of being uniform to those around her. Numerous immigrants like Jay and Joanne are ashamed of their culture because they all feel out of place in their host nations society. However, it is the lack of education in cultural diversity that plays volumes in the societal acceptance of immigrant youth.In American society, there is a lack of education in cultural diversity, which contributes drastically to the adversities of immigrants.
Joanna Sliwakowski depicts how her struggles with cultural identity and assimilation could have been prevented ” I am not blaming schools, but perhaps if the educational system at the grade school level made more of an effort to teach cultural diversity, I would have realized that I wasn’t the only one who was “different” and others may have been more accepting of who I was. ” “If people didn’t feel the need to assimilate, or if we can take a moment to listen to each other. If we can learn to respect and understand each other a little more, the world can be more interconnected.” (Sliwakowski) If students understood the concept of cultural diversity, the immigrant youth would not the feel the intense pressure to assimilate – to be like everyone else and to avoid bullying regarding their cultural differences. Joanna believes that students or the general population need to be educated on embracing diversity rather than alienating anyone who is not within their norms. With a greater education provided by cultural diversity, immigrants will see a change in their interaction with others – not feeling out of place or the need to assimilate into American culture just to avoid bullying. More immigrant youth will acculturate rather than assimilate; embracing their cultures instead of abandoning them.Throughout the millions of immigrants that migrate to the US, they are faced with the common predicament of assimilating to American culture to be accepted by society.
Although some argue immigrants should not feel the need to adhere to American culture to be accepted – others argue it is a bigger flaw in the education regarding cultural diversity. With a greater education in cultural diversity, immigrants, specifically those coming of age in American schools will embrace their culture – rather than be ashamed of it. In general, in society if those hidebound to immigration are educated on diversity and that immigrants maintain the three ideals of embracing the principles of American democracy, identifying with U.S. history, and communicating in English- immigrants will acculturate rather than assimilate – contributing the diversity of this nation rather than adapting to the culture of native society.