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While America prides herself on her multiculturalism and acceptance of those from all lifestyles and cultures that is not always the case, as the readings and personal experiences clearly indicate.
America has been multicultural or multiethnic for centuries, white Americans still are the majority in most areas, and their ideals, beliefs, and even prejudices dominate all of society. To fit in, immigrants must assimilate to the predominate way of thinking, acting, and feeling, even if it is against their own cultural values and beliefs. Thus, they may actually have to engage in cultural pluralism, or acting one way with their own ethnic members while acting another way in white society. There are numerous examples of this every day in society, such as the encounter the author of "A Different Mirror" had with the cabdriver. Ronald Takaki's family had probably been in the country longer than the cabdriver's had; yet the driver saw Takaki has a "foreigner" simply because of his ethnic appearance. The author is showing a wide variety of belief systems that face all Americans today, and the struggle to blend many ethnic cultures into a cohesive and coherent whole. Each ethnic group is convinced of their own superiority and culture. This nativism shows itself in each groups' determination to hold on to as much of their former culture as they can. America may be a "melting pot," but like oil and water, many of the minorities in the pot do not mix, and this is keeping America from being a true home to all ethnic cultures and beliefs. As long as there is a majority who dominates the political and private systems of the country, there can never be equality or true democracy. Takaki's example of the cabdriver is just one tiny example of the many struggles going on between classes and ethnic groups every day, and his essay indicates just how sad and debilitating these struggles really are.
Today, I often struggle with much the same misconceptions and belief systems. My family came to American to better themselves, and I am here to make the very best of myself. Even though I want to be a "real" American, there are those who will always see me as a "foreigner" no matter what I do. I can be a citizen, a good member of society, add meaning to my life and others, and still be less than American in some people's eyes. It is very difficult to know and accept that in some people's view, I will never measure up, no matter what I accomplish. I think this is very difficult for any ethnic group to fit in American society because they are viewed by their skin color and nationality no matter what their background or history is.
My very own identity is truly an example of cultural plurality. I attend a well-known and respected American college in one of the largest East Coast cities. I speak English in school, write my assignments in English, and still speak my own native language with family and many friends. I eat fast food, but often cook my own native dishes too, such as rice, seafood, and stir-fry. I miss the scents of my mother's kitchen, and sometimes wonder how Americans can eat so much greasy, fried beef and chicken, and ignore vegetables and fruits. I live in an American apartment complex with American furniture, but decorate with some of my traditional artwork and pieces from my homeland, because I truly enjoy the clean, elegant lines of Asian furniture and design. I wear American clothes, but keep a traditional silk gown and sandals in my closet for very special family occasions. I wear makeup and do not think anything of it, but many of my older female relatives do not approve of many of my Western ways. I am truly a blend of American and Asian, and I want to keep it that way, even if I face difficulties in society because of it. I do not want to turn my back on my culture in an effort to fully assimilate as the Japanese did. I find that sad, and also degrading. I do not think anyone should have to give up all of themselves in order to settle in another country, and I do not think it is fair to expect that, or demand it.
My family came to this country to make better lives for themselves, and they should not be demeaned or forced to change because of it. They should be adaptable, and certainly take on certain parts of American culture to better themselves. For example, I learned English because it is the language spoken here, and it helped me excel in school and in the workplace. I would not expect my home language to be spoken in every place I shop, work, and go to school in America. However, I think that Americans are resistant to immigrants holding on to their own cultures. Many Americans seem to think that the moment I arrived here, I should be a full-fledged American, or there is something wrong with me. If they moved to another country, I would think they would hang on to some of their customs and blend others, and yet, they do not seem to accept that same lifestyle in immigrants to their country. The film "In the White Man's Image" shows this same feeling of assimilation vs. plural culturalism. When the white man overtook the Native Americans and forced them off their land, they forced them to accept the white man's ways, or else. The Natives were relocated to reservations far from their native lands, and so, they could no longer survive as they had before. They had to take up agriculture, even if they had not been farmers. In addition, their children were shipped off to Indian Schools like Pratt's, and forced to forget their native language, culture, and beliefs to assimilate into the white man's customs. His motto was "Kill the Indian and save the man" (In the White Man's Image). Sadly, while this belief is not nearly so blatant today, most cultures still must "kill" their own beliefs to effectively fit in the still dominant white man's society. America prides herself on her openness and acceptance of others, but both these essays show there is a real rift between what American doctrine says and how Americans behave. This is not a transnationalistic society, no matter what people want to think. While there are certainly many cultures blended into most American cities, they often do not mix socially, culturally, or societally. That is why so many towns still have Chinatowns, barrios, ghettos, Little Italy's, and Jewish centers. America accepts just about anyone inside her borders, but once they are here, they band together to keep from losing themselves and their culture to American society.
Race is not supposed to be an issue in a country where freedom is the rule, but unfortunately, it is. What color a person's skin is "colors" how others view him or her, and this is evident in Takaki's essay, as well as Ly's essay "Asian: Just a Simple Word." Here, Kuong Ly defines Asian and continues to discuss the "model minority" image also discussed in the textbook. Americans see Asians as the minority that strives to do more and excels at most of what they do. Sometimes, I get very tired of attempting to live up to this model. Sometimes, I just want to be a "slacker," and debunk that myth. Asian families expect a lot from their children, and sometimes, their expectations are difficult to meet. In addition, most Asians do not excel at showing their emotions - they hide their feelings rather than air them in public. Therefore, we dutifully do what are parents want us to, while inside we are feeling very different emotions and feelings. Author Ly speaks of Asians who have committed suicide because of these very real pressures of family, job, school, and life. As an Asian, it is quite easy to see why. Sometimes the pressures seem overwhelming, and many of my American friends and classmates simply do not understand. The pressure from my parents to succeed is not simply enormous, it is overpowering. They do not accept any other outcome. Amy Tan described the same pressure from her family in her book "The Joy Luck Club," and wrote eloquently of the disappointment of her family when she did not follow the path they had mapped out for her. It is hard to describe how difficult it is to disappoint in Asian culture. Because Asians often keep their feelings to themselves, the disappointment can be vocal, but it can also be there in physical and mental actions. It is amazing how much disappointment and guilt my mother can convey simply by facial expressions and physical actions, such as slamming items around in the kitchen when she is angry. It is quite difficult for me to face that disappointment, and admit that…[continue]
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