The Statue of Liberty is a lie. She stands tall and proud, asking for the world’s tired, poor, and “huddled masses”; and yet the Immigration Acts passed between 1875 and 2005 have told a different story. Time and time again only certain people, ironically dependent on their wealth and ethnicity have been welcome. “Undesirables”, which included anyone who was not white and some Eastern and Southern Europeans, were either rejected from immigrating or despised in society (Bromberg). This attitude of the wanted and unwanted has continued long after slavery, the World Wars, and the Red Scare.
After 1965, most immigrants to the United States were non-European and non-white (Osundeko 13). Their attempts at acculturation were barred by racial discrimination, as well as societal, and systematic exclusion. This caused many to cling to their native culture out of comfort, nostalgia, and comparison to the culture that oppresses them. This is evident in their child-rearing, which is greatly influenced by culture clash, mental health, and societal perspective. Child rearing is one of the greatest challenges for people in diaspora.
Many cultures feel at odds with Western values. One study of African women who immigrated to Canada found that the Canadian culture was seen as highly materialistic, individualistic, and less respectful of elders to those of African descent. Because African centered values emphasized the opposite traits, the women surveyed had to make significant changes in order to fit in, and help their children fit in (Osundeko 30). In another study, the western values of independence and equality clashed with the values of many Southeastern Asians.
In a survey of parents and adolescents, good” adolescents were described as obedient and respectful, while “good” parents were described as those who provided for, nurtured, and monitored their children’s activity (Xiong et al. ). For some, the added obstacle of discrimination is the biggest culture clash. For the Nigerian Yoruba people, the pervasive racism, maltreatment, and alienation of black immigrants is something they are wholly unprepared for, as racism is not a social issue in their country. Their accents, food, and clothing make them stand out, while their lack of experience with racism puts them in a vulnerable position (Osundeko 31-32).
Even the most essential concepts, such as the role of a mother, differs greatly in the West in comparison to other cultures. In the United States, the ideal mother does innumerable tasks for her children and husband while remaining loving, appealing, and content. However, in our modernizing society, the “stay-at-home mom” has taken on lazy and submissive connotations, and the “strong independent woman” is on the rise. Conversely, in Japan, Korea, and other Confucian societies, the role of motherhood and/or housewife has no shameful association.
Merry White, a sociobiologist and expert on Japanese education, compared the roles of motherhood in the east and west: The expression “just a housewife” in no way conveys a Japanese mother’s sense of her life and role. Her work, whether loving preparation of an artfully composed and nutritious lunchbox or thorough immersion in her child’s math lesson, is seen to demand the best of her. There are few Japanese mothers drumming fingers waiting for their youngest child to enter fulltime school so that they can get back into a career a Western woman might need to feel productive and important. 33)
The increasingly negative attitude toward housewives in the States can be shocking and disheartening to those from the East. Maintaining traditional child rearing practices in the Western world can be difficult, stressful, and ultimately take a toll on immigrants (Cho). Immigrants are at risk for several mental health disorders after immigrating, which can have a negative effect on their childrearing. They regularly face difficulty finding jobs in safe environments, fewer opportunities to accumulate wealth, and smaller social networks with little to no emotional support.
According to the American Journal of Public Health, all of these factors directly or indirectly affect health, which may explain the downward trend in that of immigrants (Takeuchi et al. ). The loss of family. social networking, community, and physical environment from one country to another can cause stress and depression. The lowest rates of depression and alcohol dependence have been found in African and Asian immigrants, but after immigration mental health tends to worsen to match the population.
Studies have shown increased incidents of schizophrenia in immigrants, especially in those coming from predominantly black countries, suggesting that discrimination plays a large role (Kirmayer et al. ). Many of the more emotional problems immigrants face in their child rearing stems from acculturation, or the process of linguistic, cognitive, and behavioral change following interaction with another culture (Osundeko 11). Acculturation is vital to adapting to a new environment, but it causes difficulties for parents, children, and the relationship between them.
In a large study of Latino families, acculturation was found to have both positive and negative effects. The study found that more acculturated Latino adolescents exhibited higher rates of problem behavior. The causes included higher exposure to discrimination and negative stereotypes, a greater susceptibility to peer pressure, and lessening family cohesiveness as traditional values were lost and parental authority waned. Because the adolescents adjusted more rapidly then their parents, the values they absorbed from their environment clashed with those they were taught at home, causing parentchild alienation and youth maladjustment.
Those less acculturated may remain invested in traditional values of respect and familial harmony, while those more adjusted may worsen relations with the more direct communication valued in the United States. However, acculturation may not be the only cause of conflict among Latino generations. As adolescents age, they naturally demand more autonomy, and this will cause conflict, though in these cases there is the added factor of rejection of traditions. This new independence is more cultivated under more highly acculturated parents, who tend to be less involved and monitoring.
Because English proficiency is viewed as the best marker of acculturation, children of less adjusted parents have the added stress of acting as translators and interpreters from a young age. In this case, parents with higher levels of English proficiency, and thus acculturation, would benefit their children by obviating this role, as well as being able to obtain more resources and facilitate opportunities (Gonzales et al. ). Ultimately, there are two philosophies of settlement for immigrants: the melting pot approach and multiculturalism.
Under the melting pot approach, immigrants must completely assimilate into the dominant society and reject their traditional values and practices (Osundeko 28). For the sake of a country to take in all cultures, it must have none. This approach sanctions teaching native tongues, wearing native clothing, and cooking native food. Parents must not pass these things on to their children; they must be forgotten or changed dramatically to fit the mainstream perspective. In the early invasion of America, European Americans adopted the melting pot approach.
Because many Europeans were leaving persecution in their home countries, it was easier to reject the beliefs and ideas of their native lands. However, immigration of non-Europeans was not the same. Many of these immigrants left their countries for economic reasons, and therefore had no quarrel with the ways of their home country. Moreover, skin color has been a remains a huge factor in the immigration experience. White settlers were accepted, and could thus assimilate easily. Others, especially blacks, were discriminated against in every aspect of society, and thus found assimilation less possible and palatable.
Today, the melting pot approach remains unfeasible (Osundeko 28). The second approach, multiculturalism, is the more achievable and sustainable ideology. Multiculturalism relies not on minorities to give up their cultures, but on the majority to recognize the worth of these cultures (Alba). Instead of suppressing the differences of ethno-racial groups for the sake of homogeneity, these differences are acknowledged as important aspects of identity and diversity. The most multicultural countries are found in Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia (Morin).
Under this approach, immigrants are more free to raise their children in their own way, traditional or otherwise, without constraints and the stress of normalizing. For the United States, a country resting in the mid-range of cultural diversity, a more multicultural approach could improve socioeconomic equality, race relations, and immigration as a whole. Today, it is unclear whether our nation is moving toward assimilation or multiculturalism.
When asked to clarify his antiHispanic comments by CNN, Donald Trump stated, “… ou have people coming in, and I’m not just saying Mexicans… people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming to our country. ” Despite his generalizations and xenophobic remarks, Trump has gained support from millions or Americans who fear those who are not like them in every way. But the United States is a country of immigrants and immigration has always involved cultural exchange, even at the risk of homogeny. It is our job as a people to embrace our similarities and differences, and to create spaces in which we can all coexist.