While writing this piece, I tried to uncover past experiences and scenes of memory while stilI being able to analyse and build an argument. I spend countless hours editing and refining the paper, and strived to create a powerful thesis statement. Looking to the future, I can make improvements to the way I work - getting more detail in scenes (as the first AdvEssay) and providing a longer overall piece. I think I did well on both the essay and story, however - there are always more things to refine.
The Detrimental Impacts of Forced Assimilation
There was a clear difference between desired assimilation, and forced assimilation. One was an attempt to learn the seeming foreign culture, while the other was a brutal murder of one’s own, in a struggle to blend in. It was required to learn; one had to learn English, to study English, to essentially be American, to succeed from a young age.
On one warm summer afternoon of 2007, I realized that I was a traitor. I had always kept family values and behaviors before American ones, but now that had begun to change. I found myself speaking the English language more than Saraiki. While hundreds of millions knew English, only maybe a million knew my language. It was essential to keep it alive, yet I found myself only using it slightly in the house. After 2005, than 2006, I had forgotten how to speak our language as strongly as before. At the time I didn't think much of it, but now I realized that I had lost a key in favor of a lock. I developed incorrect thoughts. I didn't want my parents to speak our home language in public because I didn't feel comfortable being different. It led me to make mistakes. I spoke English more and more, and found myself disconnected with home. Of course I could still understand Saraiki, but it was hard not being able to speak fluently. This was not something I wanted to do. Although I wanted to be advanced in both languages, I had dropped one off in favor of another. In order to stay focused on school, and perform well on tests, and such, I had to think and work in English, 7 hours a day. This was much more than the 4 or so spent talking to family after school. Additionally, there were friends, and homework, and many other things that invaded the separation of ‘school at school’ and ‘home at home’. I couldn't live with these two literacies so separated. I had to change.
I remember the smell and essence of those warm summer evenings when everyone sat down in the kitchen of my grandfather’s house. My grandmother always used to cook dinner, sometimes switching off with my mom. Except for me, we would never speak English. Except for me, we all spoke in the Saraiki language. When my mother handed me the cracked black acrylic phone, I was forced to communicate with a broken tongue. He didn’t speak English, and though I could understand, I couldn’t speak Saraiki. I tried to talk to him about life in Pakistan, and what he did there, and we had a brutal half-hour long conversation, instead of a nice, quick five minute chat. It was a very horrible experience, for which I thank the American education system; every single thing he said, I understood, but I couldn’t respond. The key was slowly dissolving and the lock was growing. I hung up, and sat down to receive looks and covert laughs.
The acrid, yet pleasing smell of the old history books filled the air as soon as the lesson began. The Native Americans! Always an interesting discussion, and lesson - especially because we just finished reading ‘The Indian in the Cupboard’. There was something called the Civilizing Process. In this six-point plan, George Washington would make the Native American society ‘civilized’, as if they hadn’t been before. This plan would be both beneficial yet similarly detrimental effects to the Native American population. They would be met with clear justice, their land couldn’t be unfairly bought, their goods would be freely traded, presents were given to the Indians, and those who violated their rights would be punished. Yet, these are only five of the six. The last was the Promotion of experiments to civilize, or improve Native American society.
Although I am not of American Indian ethnicity, these guidelines are all too visible to me. This was forced assimilation. This was still going on, even 200 years after these guidelines were first written by a felt pen. After going higher up through the education system, I found myself relapsing. I found myself trying to learn the Saraiki language, and started eating our cultural food. This was about 6th grade - the history lessons were about politics, and the United States effort to stop terrorism globally. Osama bin Laden was killed. May 2, 2011. As I was now somewhat proud of my nationality, and faith, I began wearing the all too common Shalwar Kameez. I was called a terrorist, Osama, etc. It all became too real, too quick.
After researching more into the topic of forced-assimilation, I again came across the forced assimilation of Native Americans. A historian named Robert Remini stated that "once the Indians adopted the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win acceptance from white Americans.” This quote clearly shows what was required to be accepted into society during George Washington’s times. This is almost the same set of criteria to be accepted into modern society. Although, in the past the Indians were forced to convert to Christianity, one can swap ‘Christianity’ with American Societal Values, and ‘Indians’ with Foreigners. Once the Foreigners adopt the practice of private property, build homes, educate their children, and embrace American societal values, these Foreigners would win acceptance from white Americans.
When I wore traditional dress, I was called a terrorist. When I brought traditional food to school, people complained about it. When I spoke my home language, people mocked me. When I embraced my cultural identity in America, I was mocked, and insulted. As a young child, I fought against the insults and jokes, but eventually gave in. Instead of continuing the same trend of being the odd-one out, I decided to be a literate American. When I spoke English, wore Jordans, and ate cheesesteaks and pizza, I was immediately accepted back into American society. After many days of being American, I found it took priority. I found myself speaking English and wearing American clothes, alienating myself from my culture, and cultural values. When I used to speak Saraiki, wear Shalwar Kameez, and eat chicken tikka and lamb over rice, I was not a part of American society. The identical person; same personality, same name, same interests, same likes and dislikes, accepted or denied from society based on their type of literacy.
In order for one to be accepted into society, they must assimilate in some form. American society forces one to assimilate fast ‘learn now, or you’re behind’. In this struggle to adapt to a foreign literacy, it’s very difficult to keep both the foreign, and the new. Because of misunderstanding of foreign literacies, many are forced to abandon their cultural literacies in favor of the literacy of the masses.
"Americanization or Cultural Diversity?" Americanization or Cultural Diversity? Web. 30 Nov. 2015.