Avanced Essay #3 -Gavin Lane


Over this last quarter, my writing process has improved significantly. I do think, though, that the main field in which it has improved is the way I phrase the ideas. For example, I have had problems with repetition, but those have significantly lessened. I think this is certainly a sign of growth in my writing - and although it is one that I have always been doing - I have happened to notice it during this quarter.

Assimilation is not Colonialist

Over the past few decades there has developed an emphasis, primarily on the part of left-leaning thinkers, on “setting the dominant culture back” for those who immigrate to a new country. While we should not force immigrants and their children in our schools to give up their culture entirely (which was once done with Native American children in U.S. government-run boarding schools), no host country should suppress its own culture either. Proponents of this left-leaning thinking seem to want to discourage immigrants from learning, engaging with, and practicing the language and culture of the host country as a gesture of respect for and sensitivity to their origins.

Personally, I believe this view is incredibly weak, and when I say weak, I mean a source of weakness for the host nation--and for the immigrant, too. As far as the immigrant is concerned, non-assimilation could lead to isolation and even poverty. Even if the immigrant has a community of other immigrants to help him or her, non-engagement with the larger surrounding culture shuts down opportunities for work, education, and travel. I do want to make it clear that assimilation to the larger culture does not have to mean the immigrant groups totally give up their original culture. It simply means they are fluent in both--and it means the dominant culture of the new country continues to thrive. It is not turned into something else.

This is what happens when too many immigrants go too far to retain the traditions of their culture of origin. The dominant culture in their new country is profoundly affected and ultimately may not survive in its own homeland. An example of this is what is happening now in Germany. There, women generally don’t cover up when running simple errands like, say, going to the market. For some male immigrants from some Islamic countries, this is a problem. Based on the customs of their countries of origin, they see these uncovered women as sex workers, and they make unwanted sexual advances. This creates a climate of fear and discomfort where there had been none. Also in question is the German tradition of Oktoberfest, where people drink beer in outdoor settings. For some immigrants, drinking alcohol is considered haram (unlawful), and some judge the beer drinkers as bad people. If too many people with these views move into Germany without respect for its culture and without a willingness to assimilate somewhat, the traditions of German culture may be lost and the people who practice them threatened.  

Why would we want to lose a single rich national culture? In everybody’s native homeland, a culture is just going to be dominant--that is an unavoidable fact. In Somalia, Somali culture is going to be dominant. In Germany, German culture is going to be dominant. This is simply and powerfully the way it is, not an expression of any sort of “bigotry,” and traditionally many immigrants have understood this. No, I would argue that “setting back our cultures” is cultural suicide, and that is not the same as showing tolerance for immigrants. The latter does not require the former.

    Some people argue that former colonists have an obligation to host immigrants from former colonial holdings. Because colonial nations controlled and oppressed the native cultures of their colonized peoples, these nations must make amends by offering immigrants the chance to live and express their cultures within the comfort and stability of the former colonists’ borders. For example, they feel strongly that Great Britain should take in migrants from former empire countries because they owe them that.

This does not make sense, though. Does it really help former colonists to stand on their own two feet if they are welcomed into the colonizers’ homelands to live however they want? Britain was wrong to harm the culture of Pakistan, for example, but is rejecting British culture while living in Britain really helpful to former colonists such as those from Pakistan? If the Spaniards and the Portuguese built themselves up after Moorish colonialism, shouldn’t we encourage former colonists in Africa, for example, do the same? Also, this question of owing former colonists the right to enter a colonizer’s country is not consistently applied. Only Europeans and some other Western countries seem to have this asked of them. For example, why isn’t Turkey flooding itself with Southern Slavs, Romanians, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, and Arabs--all formerly colonized by the Ottoman Empire? Unfortunately, colonial guilt has been pushed too strongly in the West, to the detriment of Western cultures and immigrant alike.

Some final thoughts: in one of the sources that I read, it says that “Assimilation efforts have changed over the years, yet they remain colonial, oppressive, and in 2015 these ideas go against the freedoms that are supposed to be at the core of what it means to be ‘American’.” While you can certainly make that argument about America and, say, Canada or Australia, which are countries of immigrants that have been home to people from almost every nation on Earth, you cannot do that with, say, Europe. Europe has no obligation to adjust its cultures to immigrant populations. This is because Europe is and has been indigenously European forever, belonging to the Proto-Indo European people.

    I also want to mention the other quote above: “In the United States, approaches to integrating immigrant and refugee children in the educational system focus on getting the children proficient in English as quickly as possible, often at the expense of their native language, which can result in interrupted intellectual development and a break in valuable links to family and community.” This does not ring true. Frequently children of immigrants are bilingual or multilingual  and remain so throughout their lives. I believe they would experience greater trouble with intellectual development if they could not access the language or educational system of the dominant culture.

In short, I would argue that immigrants can still practice their native cultures in many settings in their communities, and they should. They don’t need to force themselves to stop speaking their languages or stop being who they are. What they cannot do is ask the larger culture of their adopted country to change its ways to allow them to remain who they were. It is not “colonialist” to protect the culture of an immigrant’s new home; rather it is very much in opposition to that. What we want to avoid is the destruction of the cultures in the host nations--and the actual creation of colonies of ethnic groups in those countries. Think about it: when the Pilgrims came to “The New World,” they were originally settlers. Later, they formed colonies. Those colonies harmed and even destroyed the cultures of the Native peoples. My plea is for respect for the dominant cultures of host nations and a willingness on the part of immigrants to engage with those cultures and to some extent to identify with them.


“Losing Identity During the Refugee Crisis” by Tracy Brown Hamilton, Тhe Atlantic, 2016


“Will Immigrants Today Assimilate Like Those of 100 Years Ago?” by Alexia Fernández Campbell, The Atlantic, 2016


“Germany’s Migrant Rape Crisis Spirals Out of Control” by Soeren Kern,  Gatestone Institute, 2016