Another rift is growing in our community.
There seem to be many views on how we all perceive assimilation.
In one of my recent columns, I touched upon the idea of assimilation and its inevitability in our society. I also wrote about the fact that despite what some may think or claim, there is a dominant culture in America and everyone eventually conforms to its standards.
I even suggested that those who intend to delay assimilation indefinitely may be well-advised to look elsewhere for a home.
Being a nation of immigrants does not mean that immigrants are able to maintain their heritage indefinitely. Research shows that the use of the language and customs from the home country often disappear after the first generation. Lasagna and shish tawook are the last things to go.
As children of immigrants attend college and enter the corporate workforce, their association with people of diverse backgrounds increases dramatically. Intermarriage, the main indicator of assimilation, takes a big hike from the first to second generation, and by the third generation, there are very few barriers to intermarriage and, therefore, assimilation. So, if you want to decrease the chances of assimilation, you may want to keep your children uneducated and financially dependent.
Having said that, the idea that some parents may want their children to marry someone of the same religious or cultural background should not be such a foreign concept in our society. There are many such examples. The story may be about the white Protestant parents who are surprised to find out their son is marrying a Latina. Or the Jewish mother who insists her son marry a nice Jewish girl. Hollywood has no shortage of such stories. They are a good reflection of the diverse nature of our society, and some of our city’s residents are no different.
The suggestion that respect for one’s own heritage and background is equal to disrespect for others is disconcerting and often misleading.
Moreover, criticizing parents who have opinions on whom their children should marry based on ethnic or cultural background is quite unfair. What is more questionable? Training kids to use wealth, or common religious background, as the only measuring stick for a spouse?
Young people have their own minds; they can do whatever they want. Nowhere is this more true than here in America where our individual freedoms are sacred. Most parents eventually come around anyway.
Assimilation happens without state planning or coercion in America. It is a natural process, and anyone suggesting that it has to be rushed or somehow systematically expedited will be doing a disservice to assimilation itself.
American history is full of examples of immigrants who attempted to maintain their old way of life. In the last century, for example, many German communities in the Midwest had their own German speaking schools. Eventually, those schools voluntarily closed down and the grandchildren of that generation assimilated and amalgamated into the American mainstream.
The idea that assimilation is a precondition for those who choose to come here is not an effective catalyst for assimilation. There is no need for a decree or an agenda.
The existence of tolerant attitudes toward diversity is an important factor in assimilation. The more people feel included and less alienated, the easier it is for them to blend into their new surroundings.
Moreover, our society provides newcomers the opportunity for economic progress, education, entry and acceptance into the mainstream. The significance of this very unique American phenomenon in assimilation should never be underestimated.
And last, the assimilated descendants of earlier generations help newcomers learn the ways of the new land.
There is no escape from assimilation. People assimilate because they like it here, not because someone tells them to.
PATRICK AZADIAN is a writer, Glendale resident and the director of admissions at Mt. Sierra College in Monrovia. He may be reached at respond@ fromthemargins.net.