The struggle for social identity has been overwhelming among many minority groups in the United States of America.
Ideally, the US has historically been recognized as a melting pot that has been achieved through cultural transformations, cultural assimilations, intermarriages of different ethnicities, and acculturation – key social changes that have led to integration of immigrants in the US culture. However, some people have been caught up in nasty situations such as cultural shocks, racial profiling, segregation, and other ethnic-based sidelining by the whites. The minority groups within the US culture have fallen susceptible of such adverse social experiences just because of their social status. For instance, many of the people falling under the minority groups or immigrants have experienced a prolonged battle in finding and sustaining their social identity – the sense of oneself based on who he or she is regarding his or her group membership.
Social identity is a self-concept achieved through perceived membership in a particular social group, however, many of the minority groups in the US have been denied such a privilege simply because of their ethnic or racial identity. Chang-Rae Lee’s novel entitled “Native Speaker” reveals the prominent themes of racial identity and the influence of language. Typically, the author illustrates how Asian Americans struggle to fit in the American society ands what it affords them to be in American natives. Basically, as per Lee, the nativity of an individual is not necessarily told by their place of origin or locality, typically their language fluency verifies or validates one’s self-defense to others on their where they are natives. The American nativity is basically meant by having legality and citizenship of the country and a native speaker, as per the, novel native speaker simply should bear the American accent. Therefore, this connotes that individuals having the claim of American nativity looking different with no the American accent are not natives. However, if this is the claim, then there are major questions that one can ask! What is the main interest of classifying individuals based on their nativity within the country? What are the costs of being a non-native or what does it afford aliens to be accepted as Americans? Does social identity influence personal cultural identity of many immigrants within the US? One of the major struggle that many “Americans” go through is the process of adapting the American aspects of life. For instance, many find themselves in conflicting situations where they have to forgo some of the cultural aspects in an attempt of becoming people they are not.
Ideally, the conflict of self-realization and personal identity is a common struggle that emanates from Lee’s novel. Notably, Henry Park, who is the protagonist in the novel, has spent his entire life trying to be a native American, with the American culture forcing to elude him. However, he is in a big conflict with his personal identity as a Korean in which his heritage seems drifting him far way. Fore example, as per the Korean culture, Henry has to remember everything that he learns, hide emotions, and feel the irresistible sense of alienation. With a keen look of the struggle that Henry passes through, it is clear that there is an external force that is pushing him to become a native American: to qualify or be fit for the job as a spy. According to Lee, “In America, he said, it’s even hard to stay Korean” and this indicates that upholding aboriginal social identity for immigrants is a hard thing – all what they have to do is dropping their “identities” and be “Americans” (51). The above argument by Lee has a weighty consideration especially on the costs that the immigrants within the states have to undergo. Henry represents the typical lifestyles of these people.
With the historical racial segregation that has been in the states, the immigrants have to forgo their cultural identity and “make” themselves Americans to fit in the society. Such an aspect has denied many people jobs simply because they are non-natives. As for the case of Henry, he had to forgo his Korean culture, identify himself as an American to qualify for the spying job. Actually, he went through some tests to validate his nativity. Further, for him to excel on his job he has strained his marriage – he has no even emotions for his dead seven-year son (Mitt) – and this proves to his wife that he has detached from life and being too alien.
With a close consideration of Henry’s emotions towards his family is contrary to what his Korean father has told him, “the basic comfort in this familial precision, where the relation abides no argument, no questions or quarrels” (7). Language mastery especially learning English is a struggle that many aliens undergo to fit in America. Henry’s father advocates studying hard and learning English to become an American model citizen. Such an aspect is reflected by Yang’s novel “American Born Chinese” where Jin Wang is struggling to secure his social identity after his parents shifted to America for a better schooling system – he is torn between the American and his aboriginal Chinese culture. Creating friends within the new environment costs him dropping his Chinese culture for the American one. He even looses friends simply because of things that he has never been told.
For instance, on his date with Amelia (American girl) Jin applies powder under his arms to keep off the sweat since he was not told of the deodorant though the girl never noticed. Yang’s argument of acceptance of cultural identity is different from Lee’s argument of acculturation to fit in the social system. Jin was able to withstand such a situation, accept his culture and gain personal confidence which led him to restore his damaged relationships. Comparing the theme of identity and acceptance by Yang and struggle towards identification as an American native, there are several aspects that can be pointed out. Self-acceptance gives a far much leeway of avoiding stress especially when an individual is in a new cultural environment – Jin had to accept his cultural status while Monkey King is looking for his acceptance despite the fact that he has been rejected because he is a monkey. “I created you, I say that you are a monkey.
Therefore, you are a monkey” this was Monkey King arguing with Tze-yo-Tzuh and tells that personal identity never changes – whether they go to America an Asian will remain an Asian by origin (69). Dropping one’s cultural identity as argued by Lee and accepting cultural identity are conflicting when assessing the effects that many immigrants go through in the American society. Acceptance and acculturation in each of these two pieces have an ultimate price. As per Yang, “It’s easy to become anything you wish…so long as you’re willing to forfeit your souls” and this formulates the price of finding acceptance among other people (88).
However, the costs or dangers that immigrants face are multifold as they try to be accepted or accept their identities and this calls for proper balance between personal character and expected consequences. Such an aspect explains why most aliens speaking their native language fall suspects of many criminal activities within the US, hence leading to their conviction (Jose and Joe, 390). Acceptance of personal culture within the American society may deny one several privileges or land them in devastating situations and increased psychological stress. According to Yang fact that Jin accepted his Chinese culture, his teacher kept referring to his culture claiming that, they “had moved all the way from China!” (30).
The stereotype that the American