Immigration and Living Dual Identities
The United States is popularly known as the land of immigrants. People from all over the globe come to the United States as immigrants, and are confronted with challenges and benefits of living dual identities. This might appear to be a better situation, but it poses a global challenge to other nations. The problem of globalization has brought new challenges in form of terrorism and migration (Aranda 327). Aranda’s work revolves around migration from and back to Puerto Rico and its effect on the Puerto Ricans. She notes that ‘Puerto Rico’s location in the global segmented labor market meant that migrants had to transfer to jobs in the United States to move up professionally’ (174). However, the primary challenges facing lawmakers in the United States, according to Kane and Johnson, are ‘distinguishing illusory immigration problems from real problems’ (n.p). Therefore, this essay will examine immigration and living dual identities based on the works of Aranda, Kane, Johnson, and Urias among others.
Although America has enjoyed the exceptional status of a “nation of immigrants” for a long time, the privilege has been under increased scrutiny due to the rise in globalization that has made terrorism and migration much easier. The American policymakers are suddenly faced with a monumental challenge of differentiating the real immigration problems from the illusory ones (Kane and Johnson 2). Urias (1) contends that ‘debates over immigration frequently center on the perceived costs that immigrants impose on publicly-funded programs and institutions’ (1). The influx of immigrants can cause significant security concerns, as it perpetuates a culture of illegality. Experiences of exclusion, stereotyping, and unfairness among immigrants and other members, who are commonly known as devalued minority groups, are widely reported in literature. Baysu, Phalet, and Brown (123) assert that identity threat tends to occur whenever situational signals send an implicit message that the group identity that an individual belong to is devalued in a specific setting.
In his 2007 publication titled, “Flight: a Novel”, Alexi explores the issue of dual identity from the perspective of Indian immigrants through several articles. In an article titled, “The Search Engine”, Alexie describes in details the opinion of an Indian immigrant on how they have to grapple with the issue of dual identity and the ensuing discrimination, such as being killed by the whites (Alexie 27). Alexie’s explanation enables the reader to understand why the 19-year-old Corliss perceives herself as being very different from other members of the Indian tribes. Through this statement, Alexie expresses his negative attitude towards the whites. Many reasons would have probably objected the influence by Corliss.
As asserted by Alexie, Indians are used as an instrument by white people in terms of the skills and talents they possess, their language, culture, position in the society, and the jobs they hold. The author is learned and solitary in the communal society of the blue-collar sensibilities. The author urges that no person would like to live with a white roommate in schools (Kane and Johnson 4).
Most immigrants frequently have to grapple with the challenge of communicating in a foreign language. Language is a key identifying factor of a nation. Language is used to fit an individual to a given tribe or region. This could be the reason why Corliss believes that she should not share her apartment with a white roommate (Alexie 29). Some of the immigrants to the United States communicate in a language that Americans cannot understand or identify with. Considering the long history of the Americans and slavery, it is not unusual to expect white civilians in America to be prejudiced against immigrants of the African descent on this account.
Another stereotype is that blacks came from different tribes, and most of them could not easily understand each other (Urias 213). In an attempt to preserve their identity, and as a form of resistance to the influence of the white culture, some Blacks in the United States went to the extent of not enrolling their children to schools taught by societies that discriminate them (Salkind 342). While this has done little in the way of changing the existing racial stereotypes, the Blacks have made their stand known regarding how they feel about this kind of treatment. Immigrants have come under mounting pressure to abandon their ethnicity and discrimination, though this has never turned out to be part of the mainstream society established in the US.
The African Americans have had a long historical struggle based on their ethnicity. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was instrumental in spearheading the struggle for the blacks, starting with his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, followed by his public address of over 5000 people at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery 5th December 1955. He inspired other blacks to join the struggle, particularly Mrs. Rosa Parks who was arrested for failing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus. This happened only a few days after Dr. King had delivered the public address. These episodes indicate the historical awareness of differences in identities between races. By paying keen attention to the stories in the Blasphemy written by Alexie, it is easy for the reader to acknowledge the difference between whites and other identities as well as their rights as Americans. The significant differences exist everywhere, ranging from public institutions, such as schools, and workplaces. For example, Alexie compares the relationship between parents and their children among the whites and Indians. He states “My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock,” that “Indian men who abandon their children are treated worse than white fathers who do the same thing” (227).
The white police officers are also not left behind when it comes to issues of discrimination. An incident happened to a friend some years back where the police officers invaded his home. The white police officers told him that they knew how the Indians loved their children. Despite the intervention of the daughter to the false accusations leveled against the parents, the police failed to listen and declared investigations on the parents.
Based on the work of Alexie, it becomes clearer how the issue of dual identity has manifested itself in the United States. Salkind (342) claims that failing to recognize other people’s language, education, culture, religion, and civil rights could have serious implications on society (Salkind 342). Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about inadequate recognition of the human rights, and it causes the immigrants, especially Blacks, to lose their identity. Many people might agree that Dr. King explained how human rights are linked to the way people identify with where they come from. Therefore, the United States is playing a risky game by not accepting the rights of the immigrants. When a state fails to recognize immigrants, it poses a threat to peaceful coexistence.
The issue of dual identity also affects the academic performance of the immigrants. For example, according to Baysu, Phalet and Brown, ‘Some members of ethnic minority groups respond to identity threat in ways that are detrimental to their school career, while others persist despite an unwelcoming school environment’ (121). This is indicates the coping abilities of certain immigrants where others are not able to do the same.
The United States is the most diverse country in the world where peaceful co-existence seems to be under threat from the rapid rise in the number of immigrants, both legal and illegal. This has earned it the popular phrase, “a melting pot of culture”. Immigrants are faced with many challenges, key among them being the limitation of their language. Some of them have never developed an interest in learning proper English. Consequently, they feel embarrassed speaking in the workplace, schools, and in public. Some of them perceive the American society as being very hostile to them for being immigrants. They have also been discriminated against in public, at school, and in the workplace. The situation has been made worse by globalization and the consequent rise in acts of terrorism, making it harder for the American policymakers to distinguish genuine immigrant problems from illusory ones.
Alexi, Sherman. Flight: A Novel. New York: Grove Press, 2007. Print.
Aranda, Elizabeth M. Emotional Bridges to Puerto Rico: Migration, Return Migration, and the Struggles of Incorporation. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. Print.
Baysu, Gu I, Karen Phalet and Rupert Brown. “Dual Identity as a Two-Edged Sword: Identity
Threat and Minority School Performance.” Social Psychology Quartely, 74.2 (2011):
Kane, Tim and and Kirk A. Johnson. “The Real Problem with Immigration
and the Real Solution.” The Heritage Foundation, March 1, 2006
Salkind, Neil J. Encyclopedia of Human Development. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, 2006. Internet resource.
Urias, David A. The Immigration & Education Nexus. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. Internet resource.