Assimilation - Erasure of Literacy & Identity

The Great American "Melting Pot"

Assimilation at its best
I would be willing to be that most people who grew up in America within the past hundred or so years have heard of the idea of America being a melting pot where people come from all over the world and assimilate into a greater "American" identity. Want to hear a secret? This singular identity doesn't exist. Its a misconception or in the minds of more cynical people its a hoax created by the dominant culture. This creepy video says it all, in how the American melting pot was formed with a eurocentric viewpoint in mind. People who didn't buy into this idea were "othered" and placed outside the conventions of society. It was either accept English and the Anglo American way of cultural interaction or be left behind. Before we get into the cultural cost of willing embracing the dominant discourse and discarding your own, lets look at the people who were by-products of the assimilationist period of the 1930's-1960's.

Discrimination and Loss Outside the Dominant Discourse

The Bracero Program and the resulting underclass outside of society

As you can see from the video, the introduction of the Mexican migrant worker into America marked a beginning of a painful journey within the Anglo American discourse of the United States. For someone to to get an accurate accounting of the deep cultural loss experience you must imagine a world where you forcibly strip yourself of your identity in the hope that this removal will result in a better future for your family; always knowing that this “better future” is something that you will never be able to experience, and perhaps neither will your children. And is it a better future if your children can't relate to the experiences and cultural literacies of their ancestors?
Shift in Identity through Literacy
Now at about this point, what cultural literacy and how does it relate to the connection you have with your older relatives - specifically Mexicans living in the United States. This shift occured quite simply because our education systems acted as a sort of cultural annihilation camp, in that they advocated for a English only literacy and way of interaction that was wrapped around the ideals of the "American I". This "American I" or idea of rugged individualism replaces communal responsibility. Mexican American writer Richard Rodriguez touches on these conflicting ideas in the following video.

Disconnect & Loss of Familial Identity

The cultural disconnect among Mexicans living in the United States was done out of necessity. There's a book from the 1930's called George Washington Gomez that highlights the negative consequences of this assimilation into the singular Anglo American cultural discourse. There's an incident from Rodriguez's life that speaks this when as a kid "Proudly [he] announced - to [his] family’s stunned – that a teacher had said [that he] was losing all trace of a Spanish accent” (516). I'm guessing his family's stunned silence wasn't a good thing. I believe it was a realizing of a cultural disconnect. After all, who wants to hear their kid basically say they're proud to not have an cultural markers when these cultural markers are a part of you are as a parent? Not exactly something you want your kid to be proud of I'd guess. Sol looking back on this assimilationist period, I suppose we should ask "What happened?" I mean the Mexican in the United states hasn't become comepletely Americanized obviously. There hasn't been a total annihilation of the Mexican cultural identity in Latino's in the United States. If that was the case we wouldn't have a movie with Adam Sandler propping up the culture or odd Spanglish billboards around the southwest. Well to answer that question Chicano Nationalism is what happened.

Continue towards the era of Chicano Nationalism

No comments:

Post a Comment