Assimilate. A word some of us know all too well. When you were in elementary school you probably got picked on for speaking English with a funny accent or saying share instead of chair. You brushed it off and eventually learned how to speak without the accent. You adapted. But what does it mean to truly assimilate? Is it learning a new language within a short period of time? Or celebrating a tradition a different way than you are used to?
Immigrant children often feel that they have to hide their culture around Americans so that they aren’t discriminated against. Luckily, as a first-generation Cuban-American living in South Florida, I have never experienced the setback of not being completely assimilated.
One day at work, the swim team I was supervising was talking about the different languages they spoke and traditions they practiced at home. When it came time for an Asian boy on the team to speak, he stayed quiet. He tried to hide under the water as if the conversation didn’t concern him. Later, once practice was over, I asked why he hadn’t answered. He said that he would rather stay quiet than have the rest of the team know he spoke Mandarin, since he didn’t want to be made fun of like in school.
Why do we make it so hard for someone to feel welcome in this country? If someone is Muslim, they are labeled as terrorists. A black person is automatically stereotyped as a criminal. All immigrants try to do when they arrive in this country is to adapt to the customs, culture, and education system as best as possible.
Change is hard, and what do we do? Instead of applauding immigrants for their efforts, we tear them down and make it harder for them than it should be. Is it out jealousy? Or perhaps, its out of fear that they can came to this country and have opportunities presented to them that we feel entitled to?
Some might say that immigrants are not wanted here and should go back to their home countries, but many of them come here to do labor-intensive jobs that many Americans wouldn’t consider doing themselves.
We live in a country that was founded by immigrants. We pride ourselves on being one giant melting pot, but, still, it is hard for some people to feel accepted. Why don’t we try being more considerate and patient with one another? It won’t cost us anything. Instead of stripping people of their cultural identity, they should be encouraged to learn the new culture but can continue to practice their own traditions to make their transition easier for everyone.