Balanced Melting Pot

Attacking the “A” word

In Culture, Questions, Social Norms, Thoughts on January 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm

One of the biggest issues facing immigrant parents is cultural assimilation. According the book Inheriting the City, many immigrant parents would like their children to keep many of their cultural norms, but at the same time have a tendency to push them towards “fitting in” to mainstream American culture as much as possible. They do things like move to predominantly white neighborhoods and send their children to private schools where there is not a lot of ethnic diversity.

What this book has also recognized is that many of the children of these first generation immigrants are swinging the cultural pendulum to the other side by seeking out their culture of origin and ensuring that their children have exposure to it.

Although the book doesn’t offer a clear explanation for this change, my take is that we have realized that you can hold on to your culture closely and still be successful in mainstream society.  Many of us were able to achieve speaking more than one language fluently, which actually gave us a competitive edge over our peers. While “fitting in” was important for us as children and teenagers, as adults we realized that our cultural upbringing makes us unique, while also uniting us. 

I’m always intrigued when I learn that something that I always thought was a Haitian cultural norm is also a Puerto Rican/Jamaican/Caribbean/people norm.

So the million dollar question: How do you feel about cultural assimilation? Is it critical to an immigrant’s success, or not?

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