Having observed Veterans Day just recently, and with Trump’s tweets constantly filling my timeline, it’s hard not to reflect on what it is to be American. While home in Orosi during the three-day weekend, I attended the local Veterans Day parade to cheer on my little cousin, who was performing in the high school marching band.
I stood there, watching the different organizations and floats passing by, many of the participants proudly waving American flags out of respect for our troops and our country.
Noting that most people from my hometown are Latino, it brought up a lot of conflicted feelings, especially when put in context of the Trump administration’s stance on immigration. As a Filipino-American in a predominantly Latino community, there’s a lot to consider when developing my personal values and cultural perceptions.
Although I cherish my diversity of experiences, it was, inevitably, a rather confusing environment to grow up in. It was especially challenging to figure out which cultural values to embody, and it’s a struggle I still face. My parents felt an obligation to live an American life to obtain the American Dream, which led to my siblings and me growing up whitewashed.
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This is evident on the surface, considering my middle name is inspired by Chelsea Clinton. Besides the Filipino food, we didn’t have much exposure to Filipino culture, such as the language and history. Without this cultural background, I found myself feeling excluded, in that it was hard to fully integrate into any social groups.
This isn’t an isolated experience to me; it can be a common feeling for many. Inflicted with intersecting identities, there’s a lot of pressure coming from all sides to act and be a certain way. When trying to live up to all the expectations, there’s a lot of stress that comes up as well.
With the simple question of, “Tell me about yourself,” and “What describes you best?” during interviews, it always makes me wonder, what parts of my different identities do I embrace? In other words, which ones should I, but which ones do I really want to? The census is another source that provokes these thoughts.
In the end, it makes me realize I’m stuck in this perpetual identity crisis, never really knowing how to define myself.
The idea of the American Dream provides a simple explanation as to why immigrants like my parents raised us the way they did. It is also shown that immigrants are more likely to adopt American-sounding names, which is relevant to the assimilation process in that names are a part of cultural identity .
Research shows that employers tend to be biased when reviewing resumes; names are used as an indicator of race, and those with foreign-sound names are more vulnerable to discrimination. Immigrants appear to be more mindful of these biases, resulting in the adoption of American-sounding names.
Mental health also becomes an issue. Rather than relieving trauma induced by immigration, studies suggest that assimilation is actually a traumatic process in itself. There exists a correlation between assimilation levels and negative mental health effects; that is to say, higher rates of acculturation tend to be associated with a higher prevalence of mental health problems.
Moreover, those who are native-born appear to experience more depression in comparison to the first-generation immigrants. This disparity could imply the feeling I was describing earlier; those who are born here but have family ties elsewhere adjust roughly to assimilation because they might not feel like they full fit into either culture.
To help ease the consequences, employers could be required to take an implicit bias assessment before the hiring process. Doing so would promote self-awareness of implicit bias and hopefully lessen chances of discrimination tied to arbitrary factors. It would also make immigrant families feel more confident in keeping family names, thus maintaining their cultural identity.
Additionally, this could potentially increase diversity in the workplace by preventing employers from overlooking these applicants. This idea would be beneficial in the assimilation process to increasing awareness and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Jill Sapad of Berkeley, formerly of Orosi, is a fourth-year social welfare major and public policy minor at the University of California at Berkeley. Connect with her at email@example.com, (559) 305-4004 or Twitter: @jilljedi.