Culture is embedded in all aspects of human life, from the way they dress, eat, interact, spend free time, recreate, learn, as well as speak. To belong to a certain ethnic group, one has to display compliance in all these aspects of life. Education, religion, feeding habits, work, language are vital aspects that can be used to identify a certain group of people. America is a multi-ethnic nation with many races of people living together. In such a diverse environment, there is a lot of cultural borrowing as well as acculturation. The foreigners are trained on how to become American through nativization programs while the natives borrow cultural practices from foreigners through cultural borrowing. This essay will relate my own experience as a native white American within the American society, and compare this experience with the experience of the views of Dublin in his book “Becoming American, Becoming Ethnic”.
Personal experience and those of my ancestors
America is a multi-racial nation with people from different races belonging to the wider American society. Being a native white American has been challenging especially for my ancestors. Being barely in my teenage, I am lucky that I was born during this era when the American society had put off its racial differences and agreed to live together as one race united by shared values. My ancestors and parents had a rough time in the past decades, in regard to accepting to live with other races. For instance, it was troublesome to convince them that immigrants should be accepted into society and made American. The fact that the government in past decades favored immigrants when allocating jobs was a terrible experience and an act that strained harmonious co-existence among people of different races.
As far as I can remember tales of becoming an American in American society, my forefathers encountered many problems trying to live the American way. Most of their actions were inspired by the doctrines of the American dream, that formed part of my parent’s values and beliefs about how life should be. If there is one thing that my family still holds dear, it is the American dream, something my dad feels I should learn to respect by living according to the doctrines. Since my early childhood, I have been given several lessons on how a native American should live in order to leave significant footprints in society. This, according to my family, is living the American Dream of centuries ago.
Coming to the ethnic journey of my ancestors, becoming an American was a tough task for all races, including the native white Americans, a few centuries ago. A few generations ago had to fight to remain Americans and be regarded in that spirit by the society they were living in and serving. Other races had abused the freedom to interact freely and had taken over all the places meant for us in the society, including leadership and employment opportunities. The fact that immigrants were moving swiftly to occupy all the available positions in major companies portrayed us as lazy people, and this is where the stigma about the native American citizen began.
To date, it is said that most of us youths fail to get jobs because we are not aggressive enough to hustle for jobs. It is also believed that the current weight issues that America is fighting with are a result of this laziness. We have been so lazy to look after our own health that obesity has become a national disaster. Precisely, being an American has not been an easy task.
America is a big nation and one that is held highly in the world. many nations have faith in our education system and our economic strength. I applause the government for creating avenues to ensure that we are a learned population, and for ensuring that every person obtains basic literacy regardless of their social standing or stability. We have coexisted peacefully with many international students and immigrants in our classes because of the values we uphold as native white Americans. A few years ago, we even elected a black president to lead our nation, a fact that shows a significant change from the ancient racist mindset. We have resolved to live together without looking at the cultural background of each other. Rather, it is shared goals and vision that bring us together and keep us together, unlike in many other nations around the globe or ancient times
Being a native American has been an amazing experience. Though we have borrowed a lot from the cultures of the immigrants in our midst, we have preserved the largest percentage of our own culture. It is always fun to discover that my nation has been the origin of major world reform agenda. Though the American nation believes in war as a vital tool of power, I have been brought up in a Christian environment with a history of pastors who always believed in and preached peace. We have been out of the country severally to evangelize other nations especially in Africa, and I should say that I love this aspect of my family. Once a year, we receive invitations to go out to preach to the world and this encourages me.
Discrimination might have dominated the minds of the former generations of native white Americans, but this is no longer an issue in our current world. Americans used to receive favors at the expense of people from other races, especially Africans. However, the reign of Obama has proved that race is not directly proportional to ability and skill. Obama has shown the entire nation that there is power in unity, and therefore people are now working towards establishing a fair, united nation.
The only difficult thing about being an American is health. We have beaten all other odds about our ethnicity and the establishment of a fair environment for all, but have not been in a position to establish a fair environment for our health. We are all fighting with lifestyle diseases. Most of the international students never seem to understand why we are fighting obesity and overweight related diseases. It is not because we lack knowledge on how to maintain a healthy diet, but because of our lifestyles. We have to work for long hours and this leaves us with very little time to plan our meals and a healthy feeding program. Almost every American is struggling with overweight. Luckily, our menus have been liked by many other ethnic groups in and outside the country, and now the Pizza and other snacks are the favorite dishes of many nonwhites. The development of the American economy into a 24-hour economy is the chief reason we are all depending on junk foods. We have been able to achieve in other areas but not in this field.
An important aspect of any culture of the world is music and dance. In ancient days, our forefathers used various folk songs together with the traditional American dance to mark ceremonies and celebrations. However, this has been eroded by the cultures of other ethnic groups within American society, leaving us as people who do not have our own entertainment. We are currently listening to music from Puerto Ricans and Black Americans whom we initially looked down upon. The Africans have played a major role in the development of music and the commercialization of the American music industry. We have had great singers like Michael Jackson shape the music industry to a great extend. Ricans sing love songs every day for us, teaching us how to love. We have not been able to embrace and live the doctrines of the American dream and this is why we are having many social problems addressed in music.
Our traditional dance has borrowed from other foreign cultures and we are now concentrating more on dance styles such as salsa. Salsa is what has replaced our ancient American folk dance. However, this is not a negative impact of ethnic borrowing, since we all need to enrich our cultures through borrowing. The only problem is that we are soon forgetting about our ancient entertainment and embracing new social practices.
How my experience as an American relates to the views of Dublin
In his book, “Becoming American, Becoming Ethnic”, Dublin interviewed many students on their experience within the American society. Most of the views are presented by nonnative American college students living in American society in the 1900s. Most of them are multi-racial immigrants whose roots are European, Latino, Asian, or African. The ancestors of these students did not have a good life while in America mainly due to their race or origin. They never had the chance to settle down and enjoy the freedom that currently prevails, and therefore most of the narratives in this book are hurting. Josephine, a Latino, recalls how their headteacher looked down on people from her race, and openly displayed her distaste when she “took every student that had a Latin-American last name and put us in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class” (Dublin, 101). This no longer exists, and it is even hard to know whether an international student is not fluent in English especially if you have not interacted. Teachers no longer assume that every foreign student or immigrant does not know English. After all, on eof, the requirement of joining American schools is proof that an international student can understand and speak English. Those who are not fluent have the chance to join grammar schools for assistance.
Black students had their own trouble too, especially during the holidays. They had to leave their standards at school or in the city where they were schooling. La Toya recalls how she had to transform herself during the holidays. She had to drop her identity as a free American in American society, to a “Black-English-speaking city girl” (Dublin, 109). Today, even though I am a White American, this stigma is long gone. There is no room to discriminate against students because of their race. Many human rights movements have come up and such discrimination is not only unheard of, but also a crime. This is why we even have a Black president deciding on the fate of America as a nation, and Americans as a people.
To live in America, students had to drop all their cultural practices and become new creatures. Virginia narrates her experience where she had to go through lectures from her parents on how to survive in America. In an effort to become “more American”, she ended up losing her “individuality by completely accepting a new culture and assimilating” (Dublin, 19). Students had to lose their identities in order to fit within the American society. Today, we even borrow from their cultures through cultural borrowing and enjoy different aspects of foreign cultures.
Dublin, Thomas. Becoming American, becoming ethnic: college students explore their roots. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996. Print.