Assimilation and the Fluidity of Culture

Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is the latest pick on Oprah’s book club and since I picked it up on a whim last week, I haven’t put it down save for feeding my children, those pesky children ask for food at least 5 times a day!.  Jende and his wife are “migrants” from Cameroon with a similar background to most immigrants around the world. There is almost a naïve amount of faith and hope in the promise of new life from their new home.  I understand and expect this from being a second generation immigrant and a woman interested in the human plight. 

Migration is not a new phenomenon but is one that is complicated and rife with a multitude of “side effects” that are often unseen and unexpected. It’s fair to assume that Jende and Neni have their children’ well-being at the fore front of their minds when they decided to come to America and are not weighing how much of their culture will be lost in the coming generations. It is a risk that every immigrant takes as they cross that ocean and take residence in a new country.  Assimilation is a vital part of the “making a house a home” process but it begs the question how much is too much? At what point does it seem as though we are laying down our fufuto pick up burgers?

I have heard people refer to other Africans as “americanized” because they have either been here too long, or because they have habits that are seen as American habits. I think by virtue of living in a certain geographical location you will pick up some of its characteristics but why is that a negative thing when it comes to African immigrants? We seem to want to come to America but we are resistant to recognizing some benefits of living in the West.  Liking sushi doesn’t make an African “bougie”, nor does having more Indian, Mexican and Korean friends than Africans.  We should definitely give thought to the fact that “Culture” is fluid and the longer you remain in the American stream the more watery it becomes.  As I write this and think about it, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It means we get to re-define ourselves as African women over and over.

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----Written by Amelia 


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