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Immigration and the Immigrant Experience

Mary C. Water’s article, entitled “Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities,? illuminates the experience of West Indian immigrants in a unique fashion. I agree with her assertion that as West Indian immigrants move into the United States, they lose a certain amount of their culture and heritage that makes them distinct from other immigrants as well as other ethnicities. Such a loss results in the assimilation of West Indian immigrants in the category of black Americans, rather than Americans, as they endure the burden of discrimination and prejudice in American society. Waters continues with explanation and analysis, incorporating a relevant experience from an African American teacher who was interviewed in the study. The conclusion that the reader is able to draw from this short narrative in my opinion, is quite unfortunate. I realized that one act of disregard or cruelty towards a person of another race can have significant long-term effects. As iterated in the teacher’s story, a young black man held open a door for an older white woman, who refused to mutter a thank-you to him, and the cycle begins. The next time, this young African American man will not hold open a door for a different old woman, who will in turn use this act to judge his character and the African American race in general. This vicious pattern will continue until humanity ceases to identify its members by race. All of humanity is guilty, including myself, of viewing somebody of a different race and making judgments, stereotypes, and unfair assumptions.
The same is true for immigrants, no matter what race they are considered to belong to. Many Americans today look at immigrants without compassion and without regard to their situations. Most of us think that immigrants come to the United States in return for a chance to achieve the American dream and for a better life, but in reality this simply does not occur. Immigrants are working in low-skilled jobs for little pay, maybe minimum wage, in inner cities that are failing to provide a sufficient amount of jobs, security, and adequate education for students. Essentially, immigrants are doing labor that white Americans have risen above, while their children are expecting more in the way of careers and education as they grow. All of these components define the role of continuing racial inequality.
Another reading for today, from Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou, examines the life of these children, and their struggle with conflict ideas between their parents and society. Often, our parents are the ones we extract most of our values from, whether those values are cultural, religious, or moral. For children of immigrants, this process of adopting beliefs from parents is thwarted by a society that presses American values and not values unique to the individual. The children attend an American school where the American belief system is stressed, and then go home to where their parents attempt to enforce a different set of beliefs and a different culture. I feel that this process is unfair, and I feel that Americans should accept humanity regardless of a variation in cultural practices. Even though immigrants are living in America, their culture from another country does not have to die so that they may adopt the beliefs and values of Americans.

Discussion Questions:
1.Do you think that Americans will ever accept immigrants as people who are working towards the same goal? Why or why not?
2.What is your interpretation of the immigrant experience? Do you believe that immigrants are treated fairly by the United States? Why or why not?
3.Should immigrants preserve their culture once in the United States, or should they adopt beliefs relevant to American society, and what type of effect would assimilation into American culture have on immigrants?

Comments

I was really interested in this topic and I decided to answer the questions briefly. I am a white immigrant, and while not too many people think of me as an immigrant, I still have felt inequality and hate from those who feel as if I am here to still something that they should have.
1. I think those who are educated and understand that immigrant’s are not taking jobs away, rather they are making jobs, have no problem accepting the new force (immigrants). On the other hand, those who have hard time accepting immigrants are usually those who are less educated, radicals, and/or are close-minded when it comes to understanding that immigrants are the “needed force? for American economy.
2. I think immigrants in general are given a lot to be thankful for. Yes, there are cases where immigrants are not treated by the ‘human right’. But, in general one has to agree that immigrants are given a lot more than what their government gave them back in their countries.
3. Immigrants should never forget their own culture or their beliefs no matter where they go; it is important that one remembers their culture and their beliefs. It is our right to have our own beliefs; and also, it is our right to let people do what they wants and believe in what they desire (have the right to keep their culture). Now, I also think that immigrants, including my self, should adopt the culture that they are in. This way, one, shows the respect to the culture he/she lives in , yet has the right to keep his/her own culture and his/her own beliefs.