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Should we all really be who we really are?

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Individual identity is something that is often emphasized within the United States, however more and more individuals are changing themselves in order to match a certain expectation or stereotype. Even within Paul Beatty’sWhite Boy Shuffle there is a struggle between individuals assimilating and their later struggle with identity.

The first thing that I notice when I see this image is that there are four different individuals that seem to be hiding themselves behind the United States flag. They all look very similar, and the top portion of their faces is covered as if the flag is a mask; a method of concealment. I also noticed that they all are holding flags, presumably from their different countries of origin. These flags are extremely small in comparison with the United States’ flag, and represent 3 different countries. These four individuals all appear to be white or European males. Also, the United States flag is also in the middle of the picture and it seems to be the focus of the picture. The flag is also very bold in comparison to the other flags that are seen within the image. The U.S. flag is visible, the others mistakable.

This image is very relevant to assimilation because of the images of the men all hiding their faces. Also, the four different men also seem to be the same, under the American flag. This makes me believe that this translates to the United States as a place of assimilation, not a melting pot. This melting pot belief is that all cultures come together to make the United States what it is. Though this is partially true, this depiction makes me feel as though there are some individuals that have to give up who they are, whether it’s their cultural beliefs or their national identity. This image is very interesting to me because many individuals come to the United States because we are the “land of the free” and have the many different freedoms of speech, religion, petition, assembly, and press. However, conformation is emphasized.

Assimilation and the idea of identity and conforming can be very related to Paul Beatty’s main character, Gunnar. Gunnar’s start in Santa Monica, California was in a predominately white neighborhood. He and his sisters all felt as though they did not fit in or identify with being with the white people they were surrounded by. Their mother decided to move their family to predominately black neighborhood in West Los Angeles, which made them identify with the black community. Gunnar faced some hesitation regarding who he was as an African-American and his community of identification. A specific example, Gunnar’s coach separated the team by lip color, but Gunnar’s top lip was brown and lower was pink so he was allowed to play both sides. Because of his identification with two communities, he was not able to identify with neither team because he played both sides.

The use of assimilation within the United States is very interesting seeing as how we are the “land of the free,” however identity is a very important part of an individual’s overall being and assimilation complicates the life of an individual.

Sources

Beatty, Paul. The White Boy Shuffle. 2nd. Picador, 2001. Print

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_GaQ4pxaggc0/TPVrxI28d5I/AAAAAAAAAC8/qcTwc3l34nU/s1600/Assimilation_i.jpg.” Blogger. N.p., 30 Nov 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2013.

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