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Embrace Your Culture and Others’: Assimilation is not White Washing

Stephanie Carreto, Staff Writer

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   Walking the halls of UC High, you can see that there is a diverse environment.  However, you can see the lines that are drawn between different cultures. When there is an abundance of one culture compared to others, what do people do? Do they embrace their culture, hide their culture, or adapt and integrate into the dominant culture to fit in? My question is: why is it such a big deal anyway?

   As my high school career comes to an end, I have become more aware of the cultural barriers that are set up around me. You act a certain way, dress a certain way, or even speak a certain way, and you are categorized, so you might as well stamp a label to your forehead because everyone seems to have the same perception of you. And yet, you don’t exactly fit into any one category. “White-washed” is a term I know all too well because it is a word that I constantly hear thrown around at others, including me.

   What exactly is white-washed? The most commonly used definition as defined by the online Urban Dictionary is “a derogatory term used to describe a minority who has assimilated with western society” (urbandictionary.com). Western society is not a negative thing to be associated with, so why do people feel the need to use this negative term? It’s sad, really, because people should not be subjected to these cultural barriers.

   When I say I have never been to Mexico, both Mexicans and non-Mexicans give me the same reaction. That surprised face of, “Oh… Really?” I convince myself that it’s not a big deal, but at the same time, it makes me feel as if I’m missing out on something that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

   In a classroom setting, most students don’t realize how much they change their demeanors and mannerisms in order to be a part of a group. Sophomore Litzy Palafox commented on her experiences: “When you walk into a room, it’s very intimidating when the majority of the people are Caucasian. It’s not even because of their thoughts about me — it’s my own personal feelings. I look at my skin and theirs, seeing the discrepancy and I feel like I don’t fit in. In turn, I make a conscious decision to assimilate myself into the different cultures while still keeping my culture a priority. There’s nothing wrong with it because I know that I am a Latina at heart, and then some.”

   “I have felt out of place because of my race. More specifically when I have Advanced Placement classes where I’m one of the only Hispanic individuals there. However, I don’t think being immersed in another culture and adapting their customs is a bad thing. I think it is looked down upon because some people attempt to hide their own culture and act in a way they believe is better. I believe everyone should embrace aspects of their own cultures but also be open to adopting other cultural customs as well. Everyone should be able to act in whatever way makes them happy regardless of what they are expected to act like,” Senior Johana Chavez said.

   Sometimes, it’s not only friends and peers from school, it happens at home as well. Senior Rebecca Truong described an example with her parents: “I’ve always been surrounded by people who speak English, and since my parents are not from America I sometimes correct their English. Even though I have good intentions, they tend to get sarcastic and tell me I depend on English more than I do Vietnamese.” This can be seen amongst all races and cultures, being called out by family members because you are not fitting their standards.

   Palafox added, “It’s hard because you just try to fit in, but one mistake and you’re set aside, labeled as either ‘too White’ or ‘too Mexican’ or ‘too’ anything. Then you’re stuck in between and neither group seems appealing anymore, creating resentment, and that is where the true sadness comes from.”

   Whether you are Mexican, Filipino, Chinese, Caucasian, or any other race — embrace your culture and others’. It’s not a bad thing to make it evident and keep an open mind. Don’t put down your friends for being different. Whether it be their beliefs or their actions based on their cultures, embrace it, learn about it, but always remember to respect all of it.

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Embrace Your Culture and Others’: Assimilation is not White Washing