Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Immigration Post 2: Assimilation

One of the largest questions concerning immigration is whether assimilation is largely positive or largely negative. Some people feel that immigration causes American culture to disappear. But what exactly is “American culture”? As a country founded by immigrants do we really have one universal culture? The british immigrants may have come first, but it has been so long since these first immigrants that America is no longer similar to England or any European country. America doesn’t have one shared religion, even if christianity is the most common one, and we’ve always been such a mash of cultures that we can’t really say that immigrants are ruining our culture. Many people think that immigrants should just adapt fully to the American lifestyle to avoid a loss of American culture, but not only would this make our culture stagnant, it would be asking far too much of immigrants who had already moved away from their own countries and cultures.
To a certain extent it makes sense to expect immigrants to learn and adapt to american society, after all we do have societal norms which we expect people to follow (evenly mowed lawns and tips at restaurants being two examples). However full assimilation implies completely adopting “american culture” often in place of your original culture. This would be hard, if not impossible, for people who had already left their country and family behind. Some people believe that acculturation is a more palatable alternative for immigrants. Acculturation is when two cultures meet and adapt to each other. To me this implies that this adaptation would happen within the immigrants and, to some extent, the people and society around them. This means that immigrants would not have to give up their own culture in order to fit in in America, but rather adopt some american beliefs in addition to their own. For example in my family we speak a mix of english and kannada, one of the three main languages in the part of India where most of my family lives. Furthermore, in addition to celebrating the Indian holidays, we also exchange presents and celebrate with friends and family at christmas time. Getting drawn into some american traditions is unavoidable because they are so commercialized that going with the flow is easier. Besides, who would turn down presents?