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The assimilation of Asians in the United States has been one of the most common themes among artists who try to bring out the life of Asians in this country and some of the challenges they face as they try to fit in a community that is largely dominated by the Whites. The Chu defines assimilation as a process where a group or an individual adopts or embraces a new popular culture (44). Adopting a new culture may not be very easy, especially when one is already an adult. However, sometimes it is so important that one is forced to try embracing the new culture as the only way of survival in the new environment. In this paper, the researcher will focus on the assimilation of Asians in the United States based on three primary texts.
Assimilation of the Asians in the United States is a common theme that many scholars have worked on from different perspectives. In this paper, the researcher developed the following questions to help in providing a specific focus for the paper.
- How does your culture affect you?
- How does assimilation affect you?
- How do you find the balance between your own culture and American culture?
These questions will offer guidance about the specific facts that should be collected from the texts in order to support the chosen theme in this study. They will help explain the assimilation of Asians in the United States and the challenges associated with it.
Language and Communications
According to Chu, the first step in assimilation is the adoption of popular language and communication strategies (18). It is only possible for one to follow a new culture if one has a mastery of the new language. Asians did their best to understand English as the first step towards adopting a new culture. In the poem ‘How I Got That Name’ by Marilyn Mei Ling Chin, the author explains how the family struggled to understand English, a new language that was used in the United States. She says that her parents, especially her mother, found it very challenging to master this new language. However, they had no alternative but to master it because it was the only way of communicating with others who did not understand Mandarin. She says, “My mother couldn’t pronounce the r” (Chin para. 1).
This is one of the challenges that people who learn English as a second language have because of the effect of their first language. Sometimes they end up translating some words directly based on their little knowledge of the new language. She says, “She dubbed me Numba one female offshoot” (Chin para. 1). The statement clearly shows that although it was not easy, the mother was keen on learning the new language based on her first language.
Marilyn’s father was radical and was very ambitious when it came to embracing the new culture in the United States. He wanted to use the names of the Americans to be accepted in this new society. He changed the name of his daughter to make her fit in this new society. She says, “My father… transliterated Mei Ling to Marilyn” (Chin para. 1). In the assimilation process, people always use what they already know to learn about what is new to them. This translation of the name from Chinese to English demonstrates this fact.
The American culture is very different from that practiced by the Chinese. Chu says that Americans are more liberal compared to the Chinese in most of their cultural practices (67). A Chinese living in the United States may find it challenging to adapt to the American culture, but that is the only way of fitting into this society. The three texts bring out the cultural differences between these two societies, and how Chinese living in the United States struggled to embrace the new culture.
How culture affects a person’s ability to be assimilated
The poem by Marilyn shows the challenge that most Chinese living in the United States faced as they tried to embrace the new culture. The author says, “Survived by everybody and forgotten by all” (Chin para. 4). This statement clearly shows the difficulty that the Chinese faced while in this new country.
Back home in China, family ties are highly valued and people live in communities. On the other hand, Americans are very individualistic and one’s success entirely lies in his or her ability to make personal efforts towards achieving specific goals. That is who a Chinese who is just coming into the United States will feel that he is forgotten by everybody. The attention, love, and care that were given to them back in China suddenly disappear and they find themselves in a position where they have to fight for themselves. This affects the speed at which they get to be assimilated into the new culture.
How assimilation affects a person
According to the Chu, people who are successfully assimilated end up discarding their old ways of life, especially if they stay away from their country of origin for a long time (72). A Chinese who has spent a lot of time in the United States and embraced the American culture may not easily fit into the Chinese culture as he or she used to before the assimilation. The assimilation process changes one’s way of thinking and the manner in which one views the world.
In the comedy, ‘Good Morning Orlando’, we meet Eddie and his friends trying to understand who their girlfriends really are at a group date. In this particular episode, the cultural differences between Asian Americans and American Americans come out very clearly (Good Morning Orlando). This difference limits the ability of people from these two different groups to integrate freely. Although the assimilation has helped in bridging the gap and making it possible for people from these two groups to integrate, the Asian Americans still find it difficult to fit into this society.
Finding the balance between own culture and American culture
The Chu notes that finding a balance between own culture and American culture is probably the best approach that one should take during the assimilation process (84). Disowning one culture completely may not be very easy, specifically if one adopts a new culture at the adult stage. However, one can reach a compromise and accept a new culture without having to denounce past practices. Asian Americans found it difficult to fit in the society because of the racial discrimination that existed. People were strictly identified as either Whites or Blacks. The author says, “She was neither black nor white” (Chin para. 4).
She could not fit in either of these classes, and this affected the ability to integrate into society. Sometimes such frustrating issues led to self-rejection and bitterness towards others. She says, “And there I was, a wayward pink baby, named after some tragic white woman” (Chin para. 1). The author neither appreciates herself nor the Whites in the new society. The Big Bang Theory film shows how one can balance own culture with American culture without strain. Other than the love between Penny and Leonard, we meet Howard teaching Sheldon Mandarin (The Big Bang Theory). It is a clear demonstration that one should not entirely consider his past cultural practices as inferior to the new beliefs.
To Be Determinate
Assimilation is the easiest way for a person to fit into a new socio-cultural setting and achieve acceptance among the locals. Asian Americans have been assimilated into American culture. The way they talk, their personal beliefs, and general practices change with time as they spend more time in the United States. This does not mean their culture is inferior to that of the Americas. The only important thing is that the external environmental factors in the United States require them to behave in a certain way that is different from the way they used to lead their lives back at home in Asia. They get assimilated to be able to lead normal lives in a foreign land.
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The three texts bring out a number of other supportive themes such as love, teamwork, economic and social development, and many others to help demonstrate the benefits of assimilation. Once assimilated culturally, linguistically, and economically, a person becomes accepted into the new society and can easily work with the locals in various contexts for the benefit of all.
Chin, Marilyn. How I Got That Name: An Essay On Assimilation. New York: Milkweed Editions, 1994. Print.
Chu, Patricia. Assimilating Asians: Gendered Strategies of Authorship in Asian America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. Print.
Good Morning Orlando. Ex. Prod. Camilla Blackett. New York: ABC, 2015. DVD.
The Big Bang Theory. Ex. Prod. James Burrows. New York: CBS, 2008. Print. DVD.