Personal reflections on the challenges that face college students coming to understand their ethnicity in contemporary America
Becoming American, Becoming Ethnic
College Students Explore Their Roots
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edited by Thomas Dublin
More than at any time since the 1920's the issues of immigration and ethnicity have become central to discussions of American society and identity. Becoming American, Becoming Ethnic addresses this contemporary debate, bringing together essays written over the past eighteen years by college students exploring their ethnic rootsfrom the experiences of their forbears to the place of ethnicity in their lives.
The students range from descendants of Europeans whose families immigrated several generations ago to Asian and Latin American immigrants of more recent decades to African-Americans and Hispanicssome have more than one ethnic heritage to grapple with, while others have migrated from one place to another within the United States. Together their voices create a dialogue about the interplay of ethnic traditions and values with American culture.
These are moving personal reflections on the continuities and changes in the ethnic experience in the United States and on the evolving meaning of ethnicity over time and across generations. Despite vocal concerns in recent years about ethnic divisiveness, these student writings show how much many young Americans share even in their differences.
"I still remember my first day in the first grade. The school's principal came into our classroom and looked down at the class roster. She took every student that had a Latin-American last name and put us in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class…. She just automatically assumed that we couldn't speak English."
"The bus ride home is just enough time for me to complete my transformation process. When I'm in Binghamton, things are different, my guard is down, there's a smile on my face, and I am somewhat carefree. Once I step off the bus at Port Authority Bus Terminal, I'm a changed person, no time for smiling, only time for attitude…. I am no longer this standard-English-speaking college girl; I'm a Black-English-speaking city girl."
"[T]he memories of my freshman year are still ones of hatred and bitterness. Because one student constantly made racial threats, I could not endure them any more and we fought. His friends were present and I remember them yelling, 'Get him back for Vietnam,' 'Pound him into chop suey,' and 'Remember Hiroshima.' Those words hurt just as much as the punches I received."
"My parents taught me welltoo well, in fact. I became more American than they realized and lost my individuality by completely accepting a new culture and assimilating…. I left home and left my Portuguese roots behind."
Part I: Family Traditions
Part II: Our Parents, Ourselves
Part III: Ethnicity in Our Lives
In the series
Critical Perspectives on the Past, edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig, is concerned with the traditional and nontraditional ways in which historical ideas are formed. In its attentiveness to issues of race, class, and gender and to the role of human agency in shaping events, the series is as critical of traditional historical method as content. Emphasizing that history is itself an interpretation of material events, the series demonstrates that the historian's choices of subject, narrative technique, and documentation are politically as well as intellectually constructed.