What do you think about:
Ideas of Assimilation
It is important to know why assimilation is an important process because technology – television, phones, the Internet, planes – continues to bring people – from around the globe or around the corner – in closer contact with other cultures. Assimilation is the process of acquiring new values and customs. The process of assimilation involves struggle and requires motivation to overcome those obstacles. Successful assimilation depends on the use of one’s resources.
In “Communication in a Global Village,” Dean Barnlund writes that one’s thoughts and actions are based on one’s culture and one is often not aware of what assumptions these thoughts and actions are based on. He goes on to state that once a person analyzes his or her own thoughts and actions and the cultural assumptions they were based upon, that one can “become free to develop other ways of seeing and acting” which would then enable one to assimilate what is needed in order to reach his or her goals (59).
Assimilation can occur when one has a desire to acquire the value of a social group different from the group into which one was born. According to Richard Rodriguez in “Complexion,” he had a longing to become part of the rich upper-class, a class different from the poor lower-class into which he was born. His parents taught him the proper way to eat like the rich and the proper way to greet and say good-bye like the rich. About using his proper manners when visiting the homes of well-to-do friends, Rodriguez writes, “I made an impression. I intended to make an impression, to be invited back” (454).
Having access to the homes of the rich upper-class to which he aspired to become a member was an important resource in helping Rodriguez overcome the obstacles of being born poor and with dark skin due to his heritage. And, when he got older, Stanford was his college choice because attendance there would allow him to continue to interact with rich people and assimilate their lifestyle. “I went to college at Stanford, attracted partly by its academic reputation, partly because it was the school rich people went to” (459).
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Rodriguez realized that his education would serve as a resource to overcome being born poor and working menial physical jobs.
In “From Outside, In,” Barbara Mellix writes about her decision to overcome the language barrier between the type of English used in her home and the proper academic language of college. Her motivation to overcome this language obstacle was to assimilate and become a member of the academic society. She writes about her struggle with how comforting it was at times to fall back into using the language of her youth. “Whenever I turned inward for salvation, the balm so available during my childhood, I found instead this new fragmentation which spoke to me in many voices. It was the voice of my desire to prosper, but at the same time it spoke of what I
had relinquished and could not regain…” (395).
Taking on something new – assimilation – can mean leaving something comfortable behind. The desire to assimilate and become part of a new culture meant Mellix would not only leave behind the comfort of using the language of her youth, but also a state of powerlessness, complacency, and the idea that it was too much work to reach her goal. Mellix writes, “I had to take on the language of the academy, the language of ‘other.’ … I had to learn to imagine myself a part of the culture of that language…” (395).
In “Autobiographies and the History of Reading: The Meaning of Literacy in Individual Lives,” Katherine Tinsley and Carl F. Kaestle write about assimilation and how “people acquire culture, values, ambitions, and political leanings from a wide range of sources, both personal and literary” (693). One of the immigrant autobiographers included in their essay is Rose Cohen. Rose’s father was upset that she was reading books in English because he believed the ideas contained in those books would cause her to stray from the family’s Jewish faith. Barnlund’s essay suggests that Rose was one of those people who were able to cope with reality through assimilation, “The fortunate person who was able to master the art of living in foreign cultures often learned that his own mode of life was only one among many” (59).
It was Rose’s desire to acquire a new life through the assimilation of the books she read, as well as the observations she made of the actions of others. In describing the actions of her friend at the library, Rose writes, “Her every motion to me was new and interesting and charming. She represented the people I wanted to know, the new life I desired” (691).
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Barnlund writes that it is important to know how assimilation takes place in society because as the world becomes a global village, “there must be mutual respect and sufficient curiosity to overcome the frustrations” of trying to communicate with people from other cultures (61).
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