CULTURAL IDENTITY AND DISCRIMINATION
Dr. Angel Salvador Maita Zapata
Cultural identity is an important issue all over the world. In the United States there are more than five hundred Nations of American Indians. Many of them still have their own customs and traditions. The United States is also a land of immigrants from other countries. This makes the United States multicultural. The United States government is controlled by wealthy white Anglo Saxon men. Many Government policies are created with the hope that immigrants and native people will assimilate into white Anglo Saxon culture. The system of education had been created from a capitalist model and still reflects many values of Anglo Saxon culture. Consequently, I want to emphasize that different people's cultural identity affects their personal and professional lives.
Some people from foreign countries have problems understanding American culture because they have different cultural ideologies than the small group of persons who control the political and economic structure of the United States. In my case I am an Indigenous Saraguro from Ecuador. I came from a small town with a communal cultural ideology. In this country many Americans believe in the capitalist system. In "The Classroom and Wider Culture: Identity as a Key to Learning English Composition", Fan Shen argues that Chinese and American Culture are different because Chinese culture is communist, while American culture is capitalist. People in the United States are also moving faster and living their daily lives at a much faster pace that people from China. In short, there often are tremendous ideological differences between white Anglo Saxon culture and immigrants from other countries.
Racism still exists in the United States. Racism can affect individuals lives in a very negative way. Sometimes people with darker skin color are treated very differently than people with lighter skin color. In Nobody Knows My Name, James Baldwin says "I left America because I doubted my ability to survive the fury of the color here" (3). In brief, a person life is affected in a negative way when they are discriminated against because of the color of their skin.
Sometimes people who are professionals will experience racism from co-workers or supervisors because of the color of their skin. According to James Baldwin's argument he was not considered a professional writer in the United States because he had dark skin color (African American). This kind of cultural discrimination affected Baldwin's professional life. Baldwin's opportunities were also affected as a writer. He decided to migrate to Paris where he was considered a human being and a professional writer.
Professional immigrants often can not practice their profession if they don't follow American policies or rules. Regarding their careers professional immigrants want to practice their professions in this country. It is impossible if they don't understand the American educational system and American culture. For each profession there are many rules to follow. International doctors have to past many tests. These kinds of exams are related to the American medical educational system and medical culture. These exams will certify doctors to practice in the United States.
Fan Shen asserts that his professional life as a Chinese writer was affected when he started writing in English. Consequently, he had to learn the Western concept of English composition and American culture. Shen says "In order to write good English, I knew that I had to be myself, which actually meant not to be my Chinese self. It meant that I had to create an English self and be that self" (586). Shen became bicultural because he had the ability to write English literature and Chinese literature. Shen can also understand both American and Chinese culture.
Shen's example of himself becoming bicultural is a very positive example unlike Baldwin's negative impression of the United States. Shen struggled for many years to feel completely comfortable in American society. He had to learn much but he finally was able to become a successful writer. On the contrary, Baldwin as an American could not be a success as a writer because unfortunately American society is classified by races (skin color) or biological classification. This kind of classification creates racial discrimination in this country. Some white people believe in their superiority in relation to other people with different skin colors. Therefore, Baldwin was not treated as a professional.
In my point of view, there is one race, the human race, however there are many different cultures. All cultures are important because they are composed of human beings. Therefore, I think that there should not be cultural discrimination. Unfortunately in the United States people are discriminated against because of the color of their skin (race) not necessarily because of the particular culture they come from.
In conclusion, cultural identity affects our personal and professional
lives when we are living in a different culture, such as American culture.
Racism affects peoples personal and professional lives. Fan Shen had a very
difficult time trying to understand American ideology and culture but he was
able to become a successful writer and have a professional life in this country.
James Baldwin' experiences are negative because he suffered cultural discrimination
in my point of view, but a racial discrimination according to American society.
Cultural or racial discrimination is a big issue in this country. Therefore,
I propose to continue supporting equal rights for all peoples in all cultures
regardless of skin color.