Performing and Surviving Assimilation: Identity Crisis

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(Entitled “Mixed Race”, Source from MsAfropolitan.com)

Is America this huge melting pot of diversity? In some aspects it is, however, many individuals find it hard to identify with the “American” culture and are forced into closets of assimilation. This idea is magnified even more within racial constructs. Assimilation, in many ways, is defined as a performance.

In my primary source, there are a series of faces. Each face varies in color (ethnicity) and is shown within a radial frame. We can visibly see, through racial physical stereotypes, the various races depicted. One see’s the African American with the dark skin and full lips. One also see’s the eye on the viewers right, which is slanted like many of those of the Asian culture. These faces are physically constructed together in the form of a radial pie. We also see various skin tones and physical attributes within the artwork. Whereas the images combine to create the “big picture” (creating diversity together), the American culture works in opposition. We perform to fit the mold. Instead of embracing culture, we erase the culture to adapt to the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture and customs.

The intention of this piece may have been to show a pool of racial and cultural identities and how they come together in unity. As mentioned earlier in the introduction, many individuals see America has a huge melting pot, however, when one takes an intricate look at this idea, we may begin to question this American culture and more specifically, this issue of diversity in the US. One definition that I found on the term “American” is “Something of, relating to, or characteristic of the United States or its inhabitants”.

Within White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty, the main character Gunnar Kaufman suffers a similar disconnect. This novel presents a valid and accurate alternative of intercultural and interracial understanding. Diversity within this novel is conflicted. A secondary source by Marcela Fuentes, who responds to White Boy Shuffle states, “Assimilation is a major theme, and Beatty uses it to show how conspicuous it feels to be the “other”. Gunnar is indeed “performing” in this novel.

The comparison is parallel. Not only is there a disconnect to identity and assimilation on a global and national scale, but also within the racial aspects. While growing up, I had many of the same experiences as Gunnar Kaufman. I attended a predominately black high school for me first and second years and I transferred to a private school for my remaining high school career. I was one of three African Americans of about 95 students. While there, students behaved differently and I learned how to fit it by thinking consciously of the vernacular that I used, the clothes that I wore and even the music that I listened to.  When I would go back home to visit friends, I noticed that I could switch up my demeanor. I learned the value of performing and assimilating under false pretenses.

Furthermore, the ideas of assimilation are multifaceted topics. We as humans come from various backgrounds and cultures. We all offer different attributes to society and it is very unfortunate that we all, in some way, hide who we are to fit into this “American” mold. Do we ever stop performing? Or, is “adapting” to our settings something that occurs normally?

Image<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”><imgalt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nd/3.0/88×31.png&#8221; /></a><br />This work is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License</a>.

Sources:

“Mixed Race Girls Have Issues – Part 3 of 3 | MsAfropolitan.” Mixed Race Girls Have Issues – Part 3 of 3 | MsAfropolitan. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
Salam, Reihan. “An Ongoing Review of Politics and Culture.” Performing Race. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
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