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Cultural Assimilation

cultural assimilation

Cultural assimilation is a socio-political response to demographic multiculturalism that supports or promotes the assimilation of cultural and ethnic minorities into the dominant culture (Wikipedia).

Latinos who reside in the United States are caught in between two worlds. We leave our country behind in search of a better life and when we find this land of opportunity, we still feel lost. Self-hatred is very common amongst minorities especially when everything around us enforces that white is right. The very successful and well respected Puerto Rican author, Judith Ortiz Cofer, in "The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria," talks about the stereotypes that women of color experience no matter how wealthy or educated they are. She writes:

One such incident that has stayed with me, though I recognize it as a minor offense, happened on the day of my first public poetry reading. It took place in Miami in a boat-restaurant where we were having lunch before the event. I was nervous and excited as I walked in with my notebook in my hand. An older woman motioned me to her table. Thinking (foolish me) that she wanted me to autograph a copy of my brand new slender volume of verse, I went over. She ordered a cup of coffee from me, assuming that I was the waitress. Easy enough to mistake my poems for menus, I suppose. I know that it wasn't an intentional act of cruelty, yet of all the good things that happened that day, I remember that scene most clearly, because it reminded me of what I had to overcome before anyone would take me seriously. In retrospect I understand that my anger gave my reading fire, that I have almost always taken doubts in my abilities as a challenge—and that the result is, most times, a feeling of satisfaction at having won a covert when I see the cold, appraising eyes warm to my words, the body language change, the smile that indicates that I have opened some avenue for communication. That day I read to that woman and her lowered eyes told me that she was embarrassed at her little faux pas, and when I willed her to look up at me, it was my victory, and she graciously allowed me to punish her with my full attention. We shook hands at the end of the reading, and I never saw her again. (Cofer 207)

Latinos are in a difficult position. We are not white enough to be considered white or black enough to be considered black. Yet, we are categorized as brown people. It is not to say that white looking Latinos at times try to pass as white and dark-skin Latinos will call themselves black, the question is, will assimilation make us part of the dominant culture? American feminist and anti-racism activist, Dr. Peggy McIntosh answers this question in her article, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies." She says:

Whether through the curriculum or in the newspaper, the television, the economic system, or the general look of people in the streets, we received indications that my people counted, and that others either didn't exist or must be trying, not very successfully, to be like the people of my race... In proportion as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made inconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit in turn upon people of color. Moreover, though "privilege" may confer power, it does confer moral strength. (McIntosh)

One can adapt to any other country's ways, but many of us will never forget where we came from and who we are. There's also those Latinos who love both cultures considering themselves to be ambicultural. They don't feel the need to choose one over the other because many of us embrace both. Overall, what are your thoughts?

HATE: Being attacked for having Latino Pride

LOVE: Dressing up their Children