The Cultural Columnist

An analytical perspective to the news and experiences of the everyday

“America the racist?”

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Here’s a tweet I came across a little while ago.

“Hate hearing people not speak English in America #sorrynotsorry”

Ignorance and discrimination at its finest, people.

Well, let’s be clear. English is the mainstream language that positively allows us to communicate with each other. However the key is to respect the presence of other cultures and languages. This tweet fails to do that. Instead, it suggests oppressing your own native language to adopt a new one.

But discrimination has certainly evolved. It is no longer one that segregates and distinguishes between whites and non-whites, rather, one that entails sameness. America is now the land of transformation to this narrowly-defined white world that cannot accept, much less sustain, differences. We must all speak English.

And from a mainstream perspective, in an effort to communicate with each other, maybe so. But on an “everybody should speak it and ignore their own native language because that’s what America is all about” level, no. Not at all.

So what does this say about America? Incomers have to transform into a wrongfully claimed white world? Because America promotes sameness?

Many do partake in the same mentality of this young adult by thinking they now belong to a corrupt depiction of what America is. Many minorities are “whited-out.” Many don’t know how to speak their native language. Look at Italians. Many are now Italian-Americans. Jersey shore style. But native Italians will argue that’s not what Italian culture promotes or represents, as I distinctly remember my high school Italian teacher constantly bickering about. It is the “Americanized” Italian.

And I am sure many cultures are falling in the same trend; they are redefining their culture on American stereotypes and standards.

I am not sure when whites became the dominant race. After all, newcomers and immigrants used to be called white people. So when did they claim superiority? And when and why did everybody else go along with it?

So where is the beauty of acceptance? Embracing the differences? Ideally, America should be the face of multiculturalism. Instead, it has been made evident that cultures, customs, beliefs, the richness of Hispanic culture, Italian, Asian, and everything in between are just differences.

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11 comments on ““America the racist?”

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse
    December 13, 2012

    There is certainly racism in America but one Tweet or millions does not make the US a racist nation. After all, President Obama won two elections and this tells as that maybe there are more people that feel as you wrute in this post that there is beauty in acceptance of our cultural differences—cultural differences that over time are transforming the foundation of the country.

    That transformation seriously started with the Civil War in 1861 leading to an end of slavery in addition to women’s suffrage leading to the right to vote for women in 1920 and then national child labor reform in 1938 that took children as young as five out of factories and coal mines and put them in school.

    Change coming slowly is much better than no change at all.

    • The Cultural Columnist
      December 13, 2012

      Change is coming quickly, I am only 19 and have seen it in my lifetime. The “America” I was referring to was the reality that tweeter was living in, and of those not up to date with this “change” revolution, if that makes sense.

  2. pamij
    December 13, 2012

    What happen to the great melting pot???

  3. Lloyd Lofthouse
    December 13, 2012

    Is America a melting pot or a salad bowl? A pot cooks everything into a soup or stew, blending it into one so to say, but the items in a mixed-green salad still maintain a semblance of the unique differences between each item.

    And what is healthier? that stew or the salad

    • The Cultural Columnist
      December 14, 2012

      This reminds me of a discussion I had with an extremely intelligent professor of mine. St. John’s University is so highly regarded for its diverse campus. And let me just take a second to confirm that incredible presence of so many cultures. But the question that came up was, even in this environment, are students from different backgrounds interacting with each other and benefiting from this diversity? Or are we just sort of sitting there together with no real interaction? After a brief study conducted by a group of students, it turned out both scenarios were taking place.

      But anyways, as a response to your question, I would have to side with a little bit of both. I think the unique differences of salad ingredients/cultures give beauty to the overall picture of humankind. Yet that distinctive separation between them signify a lack of acceptance. Which is not the case in the melting pot analogy. So that collaboration as people, to learn from each other, and experience the richness of different cultures, which would occur in a melting pot America, while still holding on to the uniqueness and individual ingredients pertaining to each background, as in a salad America, is the best combination. What do you think?

      • Lloyd Lofthouse
        December 14, 2012

        Yes, I agree. I think that what we have in America is a stew with a salad on the side. While many in America retain elements of the culture they have roots with, they also blend with the larger culture that defines the diversity/identity of what makes America different from the rest of the world and each generation becomes more American and less that other culture as they move from salad to pot becoming more of an ingredient in the stew.

        My wife is Chinese. She was born in Shanghai and grew up during the Mao era living through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. She came to the US in 1984 at the age of 26 on a student visa to attend the Chicago Art Institute and did not speak or understand English when she arrived. In her first six months, she learned English enough to survive at the university and eventually earned her BA and then MFA. Today, she is a US citizen and may embody what you describe. She now straddles both cultures but is more Chinese than she is American so I see her as in ingredient in that salad but is also part of the melting pot a little. For example, she thinks in Chinese and when she speaks English, she has to translate her thoughts into English before she opens her mouth and says a word, and everything I say because I do not speak Chinese has to be translated into Chinese inside her head to understand what I’m saying. If I use words that are not part of her vocabulary, I have to rephrase.

        However, if she had come to the US with other Chinese family and/or friends here that journey of merging with the US culture and becoming even a small part of the melting pot may not have happened as quickly or at all.

        From what I have read and observed, Asians do not tend to (on average) mix as quickly as other cultures do that immigrate to the US. They tend to stay on the salad plate much longer than most. What I mean by that is that they tend to hold on to their cultural identify and moral foundation longer than others do for example European immigrants.

        However, my wife, not having the support of family, was on her own in the US, alone, and her lifeline to surviving here became the American friends she connected with at the university. Those friends became her surrogate family and that helped her to adapt to the point that she absorbed more of the mainstream culture than most Asians do that come to the US as immigrants. Part of that cultural understanding came from learning English by watching Oprah, Mr. Rogers, and soap operas such as Dynasty. Without the lifejacket of family support, she felt a strong need to understand the American culture to survive and learn what it means to be American. And for her, it paid off in a big way.

        Meanwhile, she is still Chinese with the same cultural values and habits guiding her actions and thoughts. We also raised our daughter with a strong cultural identity that is Chinese but we also see the American cultural influence in her thinking and behavior. Lauryann grew up speaking Mandarin and English side by side and she has no accent. When in China, she easily blends in and no one she meets seems to think she is an overseas Chinese. The reason for that may be that as she grew up, she spent summers and most winter breaks living with her grandparents in Shanghai and the rest of the year in the states going to school. Today she is 21 and in her third year at Stanford.

        But our daughter is more American than her mother and seems to have the best of what Chinese culture has to offer with a very strong family bond that seems missing in most Americans with American born parents who also had American born parents. The further we get away from our cultural roots, the more many Americans seem to lose that type of old world family bond. I think that Lauryann’s children will be more American than she is because they will probably grow up without the connection to China that she has. By the time they are born, the grandparents, both in their 80s and in poor health, will probably be gone.

      • The Cultural Columnist
        December 14, 2012

        Your wife’s story is very interesting and I am glad she is part of that “melting pot wth a salad on the side.” LOL. It is so important to hold onto your individuality that is a direct result of one’s culture and upbringing. Because where’s the beauty in sameness? Or worse, conformity?

        Have you ever read Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”? It is a fantastic account on this woman’s mother’s struggle to become accepted with her “broken” english, resulting from her chinese accent. Although the real focus is on how the author speaks many Englishes, your wife’s experiences reminded me very much of this piece of writing. I will post it on my blogroll soon if you would like to take a look.

        Your daughter sounds great! I admire multiculturalism. I hope her children do uphold their Chinese roots, to give America that face of multiculturalism, instead of Americanized cultures.

        Thanks for commenting.

  4. Lloyd Lofthouse
    December 14, 2012

    I am familiar with Amy Tan’s experience with her mother and have read a few of her books and watched the “Joy Luck Club” more than once and have an interesting story about the last time I saw it with our daughter and a room full of other children of Chinese parents. I offered several films and let the children vote on the one to watch and the only film with a Chinese theme was the “Joy Luck Club” that won by a landslide vote.

    During one of the scenes, the main character’s mother was being very Chinese and all the children in the room watching the film looked at each other, nodded and laughed as if they were very familiar with that motherly behavior.

    In fact, my wife, Amy Tan and Lisa See have the same literary agent.

    • The Cultural Columnist
      December 14, 2012

      Well then, you know more than I do! That’s a funny story. Seems to happen a lot with children of any background when watching a movie of their culture. Same here with Spanish movies. Had plenty of those moments as a kid with my cousins and sister.
      Let me just say it’s comforting to hear your household is so rich in Chinese traditions, keeping the culture alive!
      Is your wife a writer as well?

      • Lloyd Lofthouse
        December 14, 2012

        Yes, my wife is also an author. Here’s a link to her Website. She doesn’t have a Blog. Her next book, “The Cooked Seed” will be out in April/May 2013, a sequel to her first published work that was a memoir called “Red Azalea”.

        http://ancheemin.com/

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