Friday, November 28, 2008

Becoming American part 3

Born to Indian parents in London and raised in Rhode Island, author Jhumpa Lahiri spoke in her interview on NPR about becoming American of a "sort of a half-way feeling [of being American]."

Like me, she is a US citizen who does not always feel American. She seems to have struggled with this over her 40 years in the US, particularly with the idea that her parents stood out as not American despite the fact they did have American passports. They never socialized easily with her friends' parents.

"I think this was a two-way street. It wasn't just that they were afraid or unwilling — there was a fear, an unwillingness on both sides."
As a white immigrant, with an English accent rather than a foreign language accent, I have had less difficulty fitting in than many immigrants to the US. Some people seem to put me in a different category than the more obviously foreign newcomers to the US. One person, mid-rant about how all immigrants should be sent home, paused to say, "Not you of course, you're different." The irony was her grandparents immigrated from Poland! It is important to remember that assimilation IS a two-way street. I fit in partly because it is assumed I will. I listen to comments made about some of the immigrants I come into contact with through my work, and am amazed that people see them as so different just because they don't speak English well - and then they wonder why these immigrants don't assimilate better?! 'Black' president or not, we have along way to go in learning tolerance!

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