Monday, June 01, 2009

Colors In America

The response of two readers to Hua Hsu's article in The Atlantic The End of White America ? do a great job of explaining the assimilation experience of immigrants in America.

One reader Claude B. Fischer writes :

"Hsu gets it wrong by focusing on the cultural froth, like music, food and clothes. The real story, at the deeper level, is how much and how quickly the children of immigrants from many continents apart come to adopt WASP culture ..."

He goes on to cite the facets of WASP culture that have universal appeal to immigrants of all stripes. Marrying for love, the pursuit of personal success. He calls it "the culture of personal expression and personal salvation, material achievement, voluntarism in social matters, and egalitarianism"

Another reader Ryan Karerat who is Indian American, writes :

"There may be no "white culture" but white people still dictate our societal norms. To become a cultural elite in America, one has to whiten him-or herself."

I can't help comparing the non-white immigrant experience in America to the unique way in which Parsis have assimilated the local culture and enriched the lives of Indians they have come into contact with - some in small ways, other very profoundly. They have made good on their promise to be like sugar in milk, but have not given up their unique identity. While some Parsis may argue it has become too much of a good thing and their survival as a distinct race is at risk because of their ability to blend in a little too harmoniously.

If a people have lived in a foreign country for over thousand years and yet managed to preserve a distinctive character, that should in all fairness count as a good deal more than mere "survival". Apparently, the dragnet of WASP culture is America is far too strong for immigrants to resist. As a result none of the non-white ethnicities that come to make this country their "home" will be able to emulate what the Parsis have achieved as a community in India.
It is hard to tell whose loss will be greater - the milk's or that of the sugar and spices which failed improve the medium they were thrown into.

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