I was reading an article in a local newspaper on terrorist attacks in London. The article brought up the point that Britain even though they have a smaller population tend to have more terrorist attacks than the United States. They attributed this to the cultural differences of the two countries. Britain’s immigrants often keep more of their native culture, which seems to lead them to feeling ostracized. In America, immigrants are taught to become “Americanized.”
Is being Americanized really culture or is it the pursuit of the American Dream, which is Political, Financial and Religious Freedom.
For my international readers do you have these same discussions with people “assimilating” to being “more white” or more like the majority?
To get a “chocolate” perspective on this topic I got the help of my “chocolate” friend (Because I have chocolate friends) Brandon, author of Intellegent Ignorance.
Defined loosely, assimilation is the act of giving up ones cultural background, practices and beliefs and adopting those of the dominant culture. It is what America is known for. We are the “melting pot” (or salad bowl) of the world, where immigrants from every corner of the globe come in search of a new life and submerge themselves in OUR culture. Right?
Ummm… I’m not so sure about that. Besides, what culture would they adopt? Is there truly an American culture? On the contrary, America is a place where you can come and freely and proudly celebrate your individuality.
Most immigrants that come to this country tend to maintain their way of life. Though Christianity is the primary religion here, very rarely will you find a devout Muslim from the Middle East convert to Christianity when his feet hits US soil. The only difference is that they are able to take advantage of capitalism in its purist form.
Okay… so if the active pursuit of capitalism is what we are assimilating to, why do some people view assimilating so negatively?” Don’t we all desire financial stability? The customs and culture that make up the American brand of capitalism were established by the dominant culture. Since they created the system, “getting ahead” in America requires playing the game according to the established rules, no?
When you think about it, immigrants do not usually have a problem grasping this concept. Most groups come to America with their families, maintain their way of life, and actively pursue the American Dream.
On the other hand, ethnic minorities that are already here have a different take on it. Being that ethnic minorities in America (African Americans, Latinos etc.) have had a history of being discriminated against and shut out by the dominant culture, whether it be socially or economically, many have been hard-wired to view anything established by the dominant culture as negative; and to many in those communities, striving to obtain the acceptance and possessions of the dominant culture is to sell out and to betray your culture.
Sure, assimilating may be a bit harder for ethnic minorities due to lack of access and opportunities afforded to those of the dominant culture, but does that mean that we shouldn’t try? If you want those opportunities, in most cases, assimilating is a requirement.
Many people don’t understand this concept and feel that playing the game is to turn your back on your culture. Is that true? Is it possible to maintain your cultural identity and assimilate into American capitialism?