The stories of first generation immigrants are simply told as deeply woven, romantic narratives that ranges from the glorified concept of the rise from “rags to riches” to the apparent success of systematic assimilation policies, which have been put in place to “guide” immigrants to a path of success. However, the reality is that in many cases, there becomes a major tension between immigrants attempting to adapt to the new nation and surrounding to fit in, while attempting to preserve their original culture, which then gets lost by the next generation and so forth. Overtime, the longer the migrant and their family stay in the West, the more the culture and heritage becomes lost with the future generation as they being to conform to ideals not of their own, which leads to the lost of MY generation.
I come from a group of children, whose parents are all immigrants who migrated for the falsified treasures of the new world. The impact of cultural assimilation is one that is rarely addressed. Assimilation is understood to be a topic of complicity and truly multifaceted nature. To truly understand the negative nature of assimilation, one must examine it through the lens of experience.
Growing up, my parents did not understand why I had not picked up the Somali language, or even attempted to learn anything. In all actuality, I had no real reason too. I mean, I went to a mostly white dominated school, where I spoke French and English with all my friends. I loved being a Canadian growing up. It was all I knew. It was not until one day when I was in grade three, I along with the rest of my class were told by our teacher to grab our math books, for whatever reason that day my book was missing, so I went to my teacher and told her that I didn’t have a math book. In return, my teacher told me in french, that maybe there was a reason as to why I did not have a book and that my kind (me = black person) should not even be privileged to learn french. I remember running home and telling my mom about the situation and eagerly wanted to learn everything I can about being Somali and foremost African.
It is understood that assimilation unarguable helps immigrants to conform to their new land, however moderation is key. Growing up, I had no reason to learn about my culture because I heard my parents speak english or swahili at home and we basically were pretty westernized for the most part. It was not until that situation, where I decided learning who I am and where I come from was key. I felt like i did not belong or even had anything to truly relate to with my friends and classmates.
The situation of assimilation is different between the first and second generation. The first generation immigrants were forced to adapt to the various norms, and role expectation of the society but still preserved their culture. Whereas, their children become a living example of these new societal norms. To be normal meant to be everything their parents were not. And, thanks to the concept of the melting pot, the loss of one’s identity heritage proves to be demonstrated in varying degrees by the past and present generations of immigrants.
In short, I believe our cultural identity derives from our parents and if that link of culture is severed or diluted in any shape or form, the reality is the disconnect about simple issues between first generation and second widen. Rather than resorting to assimilation, immigrants should attemptadd to diversity of their new host nation, and not just celebrating a day in honour of their culture, but truly educating their host nation; if not the end result will and always be that they simply remain an alien amongst a crowd.