Shelley's awesome English blog

Response 4
May 2, 2012, 7:51 pm
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Shelley Alix

Professor Alvarez

English 255

02 May 2012

Latino and Latina’s identifying with the American mainstream: analyzing Tanya Golash-Boza’s Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)- American through Racialized Assimilation

Assimilation to the U.S. mainstream definitely has positive and negative aspects to it. During a class discussion we pointed out these pros and cons, and to my surprise a lot of debate came from this. One positive view to this comes from the opportunity that an immigrant has to learn a new country’s language and culture which later one expands ones education and knowledge. Some students argued in contrary to this because it can cause divisions within families like parents and children. Parents might speak one language and kids speak another which can cause a hard time communicating. In an article written by Tanya Golash-Boza she talks about the different paths of assimilation and according to her one of the influences in trying to assimilate has to do with the society that you live in and the culture that surrounds you.

As mentioned earlier, Rumbaut and Portes (2001) specify three paths of assimilation. However, these three paths do not account for the experience of all Hispanics. The first path is assimilation into the dominant culture. This can be interpreted as becoming white because it implies becoming an unhyphenated America, and the unqualified term. American assumes whiteness (Tuan 2000). I would suggest that this is an exaggeration and that some Latinos/as can and do become (or remain) white in the United States, but that these are not the majority of cases. At any rate, it is likely that those Hispanics who are categorized as non-white will not be able to assimilate un-noticed into mainstream American culture (32).

Tanya Golash-Boza makes an excellent point when she talks about the “first path” in assimilation because when you really think about the journey towards becoming more “Americanized” you go through this first. She also says that we assimilate to the “dominant culture” which means that like a lizard we try to blend in to whatever culture that surrounded us. Golash- Boza makes an excellent point at the end when she says that Latinos and Latinas may do a good job with assimilation but it doesn’t mean that they will “remain white in the United states” and if they do it doesn’t mean that they will get accepted into the dominant American culture. Going back to what she says about assimilation to the “dominant cultures”, she says that not always does an immigrant “assimilate into the majority culture and become white Americans” (29), but that in some cases they “assimilate into minority culture and become black Americans” (29). Assimilation has a lot to do with the culture that surrounds one, and yes the dominant White American culture takes first place but a lot of times depending on where you reside you won’t need to assimilate to any culture and keep your own identity. A good example of this not having to assimilate happens right in front of our eyes like instance Main Street Flushing, here we see a dominant Asian culture, and not even Asian-American because the majority of people that reside there don’t even know English and they don’t bother learning it because they don’t have to. When you walk around that area it feels like you just traveled to the other side of the world when you see the signs in Chinese, Korean, etc. so they basically have no need to learn English. Everything conveniently helps them in feeling right at home although they now live in the United States, in this case making them very lucky to have a home away from home and feeling comfortable in it.

What happens when you try so hard to fit in and at the end of the day still fail at your attempt? Tanya Golash-Boza looks into the subject of assimilation in a whole other approach from what I saw it as. She proceeds to say that Hispanics still hold the label of “foreigner” even after assimilating to white American Culture and feel discourage to even try to assimilate. At the end of the day, they will always remain an immigrant or a “foreigner” in the eyes of the white American society. I agree with this because it can in fact discourage a Latino to try for something so hard and at the end still remain viewed as what you try so hard to stray away from. This makes their goal of assimilating to a “white American” become more difficult than it should. Golash-Boza mentions this when she talks about the path of assiminlation:

The second path of assimilation is downward assimilation into minority oppositional culture. […] While it is undeniable that African-Americans are also hyphenated Americans, people in the United States do not assume that blacks are foreigners, as they do for Hispanics. The critical difference here, and the difference that is most relevant for the arguments presented in this paper, is that regardless of actual citizenship status, black Americans are assumed to be U.S. citizens, while Hispanic Americans are often assumed to be foreigner, […](32).

Tanya Golash-Boza makes another excellent observation when she talks about the second path of assimilation. For an African-American to fit into the mainstream American the struggle seems minimal because no one questions them about where they come from. It is easier to point out a Latino or Latina because of their features and assume that they are from out of the country. Until now I never noticed this before and I see what she is talking about, being from the Bronx I see a lot of Puerto Rican natives and a lot of African-Americans but I never sat there and said oh he is a native from Africa or Haiti, I never gave them a label of being from another country unless I spoke to them and heard their accent. This is all hard to stomach in a way because Hispanics have to go through a lot in order to reach the level of assimilation that they want to. We have to deal with the label that we sometimes get by our own “kind” when it comes to social class and skin color which to them might seem negative when talking about social status in ones country of origin but when looking at it from an assimilating point of view some things might help. By this I mean that a lot of Hispanics have different features, for instance one might look darker than the other and this may help them in trying to fit in better to mainstream America because of this notion that “black Americans are assumed to be U.S. citizens” more unquestionable than a Latino or Latina person. I appreciate this article a lot because it helped me see more and open my eyes. As a Latina-American born and raised in New York, I never thought that maybe someone out there might see me as a “foreigner” or immigrant.

 Work Cited

Golash-Boza, Tanya. “Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)-American through Racialized Assimilation.” University of North Carolina Press 85.1 (2006): 27-55. Web. 30 April 2012. <>.

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Shelley, great find with that article. The source from Portes and Rumbaut is an awesome book, if you look them up in the database or on amazon you can find some great articles like this one; these scholars inspired Golash-Boza it sounds like.

At any rate, this model of assimilation relates to the racial categories of racism already established in the USA. In this case, multiracial Latinos, mestizos really, come to the USA, and some have white skin and “pass” and some have darker skin and are discriminated against. Some remind deeply connected to the home nations, some choose to leave it entirely.

There are a lot of texts from the anthology you could look at this. Maybe Nilda could possibly offer a great example. If you’ve never read that novel, I highly recommend it.

–for suggestion, get rid of the use of the pronoun “you” in your writing. Using I is fine, we is also fine, but not you, you sounds too much like slang. For example, instead of “When you read the poem, you think race becomes the focus”
would be “When one reads the poem, one thinks races becomes the focus” . . . just use “one” instead of “you” to make it more formal. Do you notice any differences in this model among the different Latino groups? What about for youth who are undocumented?

4.7 out of 5 possible points.

   salvarez 05.03.12 @ 1:43 pm

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