Balanced Melting Pot

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Is your cultural glass half full, or half empty?

In Culture, Questions on November 24, 2008 at 10:43 am

Has anyone ever told you that you’re not [Caribbean, Asian, Hispanic] enough?

Well, no one has actually told me directly that they didn’t think that I was Haitian enough, but people sure have made me feel that way. Sometimes it’s just by making fun of the mistakes I make when speaking Haitian Creole – or it’s completely dismissing me from a conversation about childhood experiences because having grown up in the US, I couldn’t possibly understand.

While I haven’t let these experiences deter me from holding on to my Haitian roots, I think that many immigrants and/or children of immigrants who have spent the majority of their childhoods in the US are not as inclined to “fight the good fight”. Eventually, they gravitate more and more towards the American culture because there is actually more acceptance among those peers. I don’t know how many Haitian-Americans I have met who have completely lost the ability to speak Haitian Creole because they stopped trying altogether after being made fun of so many times for their accents.

As an adult, I started to wonder if people had established measurements of culture. For instance, does something I didn’t know or couldn’t say relating to the culture make me less Haitian? By virtue of being raised outside of Haiti, am I automatically losing points on the cultural meter? Can someone actually be more Haitian than another person?

What are your thoughts?

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Is it intelligence or disrespect?

In Culture, Parenting, Questions, Traditions on November 17, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Even today, I can distinctly remember what type of “talk” was considered to be disrespectful/inappropriate around adults. As a parent now, I am struggling with what is acceptable for “modern children” so that I don’t cause irreparable damage to their development.

My six-year old is very smart. She’s very curious about the world and can be very introspective about complicated issues. With that said, she also has very little self-restraint. I can remember having questions about many of the same things that she does (why is there a certain age for doing certain things, what does “dead” mean), but I was not as comfortable as she is in voicing them.

What I’ve realized is that what was considered disrespectful for my parents, is considered healthy development for parents of my generation. Although I have made great progress in accepting these changes, I also think it’s healthy to teach a child self-control at an early age. I think it’s important for them to know when it is appropriate to interrupt a conversation and what subjects are strictly for the home/family. Having this ability is what I think allowed my parents to take us just about anywhere without worry. So I’m working on this, keeping in mind that there is that fine line between disrespect and curiosity. 

Do you have a similar problem with the conversational habits of children today versus when you were a child? How do you address them without hindering your child’s development? Or, do you think that children should be allowed to say what they want, whenever they want? If so, why?

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Thoughts on the recent presidential election…

In Culture, Parenting, Questions, Race Relations on November 10, 2008 at 3:04 pm

So, all this talk about the recent historic milestone in American history due to the election of the first African-American president got me thinking about expectations we have as parents, and moreover , immigrants.

I have often wondered if the expectations that my parents had of me, as well as those placed on myself had more to do with my family specifically, my generation or the age old dreams of immigrants to the USA. For instance, it was almost a requirement that my sister and I get a college degree and that we maintained very good grades. Of course, along with good academic performance comes the notion that you can “be whatever you want to be” when you grow up. Hence, that’s exactly what I have thought all along.

About a month ago, I was watching the HBO special titled The Black List which chronicles the experiences of successful black people in America. One of the interviewees (I think it was Richard Parsons, former Time Warner CEO) stated that someone once asked him something to the tune of ‘At which point did you realize that you could become the head of one of the world’s largest media companies?’ His answer was ‘I never realized I couldn’t.’ 

This has been my sentiment about what I am capable of achieving for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to have parents that never focused on any obstacles that were beyond my control (i.e. race, social class, etc.). Accordingly, this will also be the sentiment/expectation that gets passed down to my children.

Did you grow up with similar expectations of life? If so, do you attribute it to the drive that many immigrant families come here with or to the political changes that this country has gone through over the past 40-50 years? If not, are you changing your expectations for your children or do you think that their success can be limited by prejudice, etc.?

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