A Life of thinking globally, acting locally, and seeking peace internally.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cultural Identity and Immigrants - Part I

I got a book entitled Destination America from my local library and then went to this website as it relates to a PBS program of the same name: www.pbs.org/destinationamerica/ - the book tells the stories of various ethnic communities that have made America their destination. There is a wide range of reasons for people to have come here - Destination America delineates this into five Freedoms - to Worship, from Oppression, from Want, from Fear, to Create.

While the book and program website are wonderfully illuminating and fascinating, I was surprised and disappointed about what info was provided in the book regarding India and Indian Americans. In almost every state listed in the appendices, foreign-born (FB) people from India are in the top ten, and yet a mere *two* pages are given to the topic of immigrants from South Asia and the Middle East. This is in significant contrast to the number of people in those regions and the number of immigrants from those regions that come to the US. The number of pages that are devoted to understanding other immigrant communities/countries is not proportional to their representation in society. Why is this important? Knowledge - and not misinformation or misconceptions - helps us live together more harmoniously.

Knowing the stories of the peoples who make up America is critical to our future - the individual threads need to be woven together through a deeper understanding of each other to develop a fabric that is strong and resilient. While we are all "going global" around the world, there is a challenge that technology and ease of travel bring to the story of America. I appreciate the Ethnicity in Michigan series - the first one is a slim volume by Arthur Helweg and Jack Glazier which so clearly underlines the challenges we face today. The authors lay out the stories of what ethnic communities make up MI and what the migration patterns are (yahoo, they start with the native people!). Many of the most recent immigrants are from South Asia and the Middle East, whose story Destination America doesn't lay out in much detail. The assimilation and acculturation (or lack thereof) of the recent immigrants as narrated by Helweg and Glazier underlines my favorite Diana Eck quote - Diversity is a given, pluralism is an achievement.

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