Each country has its own policies in dealing with immigrants and their descendants to be able to consider them as contributors of their economic growth. However, majority of the host countries have provisions for immigrants to learn their culture and policies and abide by them which calls for acculturation or assimilation. Acculturation is embracing part of the culture of the majority and retaining part of the original culture while assimilation is moving on to the majority culture replacing the original culture.
In this regard, ethnic self-identity sets in, which is the integration of ethnicity or race into one's self-concept or self-image. Generally, it is seen to be the basis to establish good relationships with other groups who have different ethnocultural background. (J. A. Phinney, L. , 1990) Describe the factors that work to maintain ethnic identity from one generation to another. Maintaining cultural and ethnic identity depends on the relationship of the immigrants and their descendants towards their original and the dominant community and culture.
Oftentimes, preservation requires techniques to counteract the pull of assimilation or giving up the original ethnic identity to embrace the dominant ethnic and cultural identity. As what Rev. Dr. Dean Michael Kucera said in his speech “Ethnic identity is indeed deeper and more psychological than we have known when what we have known is threatened. ” (Kucera) He further commented that ’One can progress without loss of one's essential identity. ’ Thus, preservation of these identities depends on how the individual consider and react on the following factors.
A. Family Parents and other family members are the first influence in maintaining ethnic identity from generation to generation. From birth to three, toddlers become aware of race based on physical attributes like skin color and begin to learn the names and labels of each group although they do not know what they mean. Shirley Samuels (1977) found out from the researches she reviewed, that by age two and a half, children develop a racial consciousness and a sense of ethnic identity.
Identity, an understanding of who we are and who we are not, has been described as “a complex multifaceted process that begins in childhood and continues through life. ” (Gasser, 1999) The foundation therefore of their loyalty to the ethnicity and race is inculcated by the parents and other family members who they interact with. The religions, beliefs, language, morals among others are passed on to generations and the individual’s affinity to the family makes the integration stronger.
An alternative society can be created to maintain the ethnic identity. This alternative society is an epitome of their homeland and is isolated from the dominant community. Living in the alternative society which is usually isolated from the dominant community, means more interaction with the members of the same ethnic group sharing the same culture, language, values, symbols, religion and norms. This is a technique used by other minority groups to separate from the dominant society for a cultural preservation.
(Hartshorn) An example of this is Roma minority community in Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Slovakia. (Barnes, 2004) B. School Preschoolers are usually aware of their racial or ethnic group. They will begin to be aware of other ethnic groups or the majority group which they do not belong and tend to compare. In this scenario, the school counselors should be classified accordingly and not misdiagnosed as emotionally disturbed. (Gopaul-McNichol, 1993) Youth, being aggressive, explore the significance of race, culture and ethnicity.
Influence of the media, language, friends, teachers and others will lay options to identify the ethnic preference vis-a-vis the original ethnicity from the family It is therefore the immigrants’ preference and personal satisfaction to preserve their original culture even there is already acculturation of the second culture. First generations tends to begin the acquisition of the majority culture which clash with their parents holding to the original ethnic identity. Courses to pursue sometimes produce arguments as if their ethnicity would allow or not.
In this regard, family plays a vital role in the transmission between generations of their original culture attributed to their strong family ties and dependence. C. Religion Religion can be considered as a factor in maintaining the ethnicity of the immigrants. Indian Hindu immigrants, for example, maintain their ethnicity mainly by preserving their religious values and rituals at home even without active participation in an ethnic congregation. On the other hand, Korean Christian immigrants maintain their ethnicity by participating actively in an ethnic congregation. (Min, March 2000) D. Language
Immigrants have choice of maintaining their ethnic identity. Through the process of enculturation, the next generation of these immigrants can learn their first and original culture from their parents. Researchers Phinney and Rotheram (1987) believe that ethnic identity process begins at birth followed by the first interaction with the family and eventually with the community. According to Phinney and Rotheram (1987), values, food choices, language and skin color inherent to the next generations prepare them for the self-labeling which will affect their belongingness to the majority community. (J. S. R. Phinney, M. J. , 1987)
US Hispanics for example maintain their Spanish language as their primary language though they can comprehend the majority language. Language is a very important tool for the immigrants to adjust to the new environment. It links and separates the people and the way that the immigrant uses it, is how he can preserve his identity. It is the symbol and the means of expressing one’s self and it is here that one’s ethnic self is challenged by the need to communicate and mingle with the majority. “But how do we do this – how do we sing a joyous song when in an unfamiliar land?
” (Kucera) There are however groups like the Slovaks, Germans, Romanians and Croats which preserve their mother tongue for hundreds of years. These groups have rich historic roots in Hungary and now saddened by the fast shift to other language within the past 50 years. It was only in Romas, the largest minority in Hungary, which have more distinct regard to the use of their mother language, Gypsy, which according to them, begins to fade in Mother Theresa’s era. (Kende, 1998) Today, the loss of language is rapid that it can not be anymore serve appropriately as an index of ethnic identity.