In 2006, President George W. Bush’s administration organized the Task Force on new Americans, and according to their report, “The cultural sphere—traditions, religion—is up to the individual,”Government policies, it said, should concern “not cultural but political assimilation. ” which they defined as “embracing the principles of American democracy, identifying with U.S. history, and communicating in English.” In this article we will talk about three easy ways to empower this generation culturally.
When immigrants move to America, which is a huge melting pot of people from all over the world, it is important to embrace the culture of this country. However, we have to maintain some of our own culture so we can have a sense of personal identity. If we can find the balance, diversity and integration can go hand in hand. A new analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that the nation’s immigrant population in 2015 hits record 42.1 million.
Each new generation ties to the old culture goes by the wayside, as they try so hard to fit into the American Culture. For the new generation might dismiss, and sometimes even reject their own culture, instead of embracing and honoring them. They may eat only American foods, pick up and embrace only American traditions.
Our children might go on to marry someone from a different nationality or faith or region. According to the Pew Center Research, about 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity. As they start their new families, they move further away from their parents’ culture as they might embrace their spouses’ and in-laws culture.
Then there can be clashes between the old folks and the younger ones, as we see in the movie “Daughters of the Dust”. This movie is trying to keep old traditions when there is a generational gap in culture. We need to look for ways to keep some traditions alive, and pass them onto our children and grandchildren. Older generations can pass on their culture by their religion, traditional food, music and songs.
Three Easy Ways To Empower This Generation Culturally
Use Prayers and religion.
Religious traditions can help you understand your culture, and it also a way for parents to pass on their values, customary practices and teachings to the next generation. Religion plays an important role as it serves as an anchor for many immigrants as they struggle to fit into America. Most immigrant seek to continue or renew their religious faith as soon as they arrive in the USA for everything is new and strange to them,
The only familiar thing to them is their religion as it provides continuity of their old lifestyle. Immigrants must continue Religious rituals whether it is weekly mass or services attendance, lighting candles, reciting daily prayers or burning incense in front of an altar at home. As these acts help the newly arrived immigrants connect their old world with the new world. Houses of worship help many immigrants maintain their core traditions and historical identities.
Read the Bible or religious books aloud during meals and explain the teachings to the younger ones. Befriend other families in your place of worship so that your kids would have friends who share your religious values. Immerse your children into the many activities that your church or temple may have so that they could experience your traditional foods, songs, dances and culture.
Religion is part of the human make-up. It’s also part of our cultural and intellectual history. Religion was our first attempt at literature, the texts, our first attempt at cosmology, making sense of where we are in the universe, our first attempt at health care, believing in faith healing, our first attempt at philosophy.
Pass on Traditional Dishes.
As an immigrant, I hope to pass on some of my own traditions so that our family would always have some knowledge of our culture, and where we came from. We are from Guyana, South America, a land of many races. But, on Christmas day enter any home in Guyana, and you will see the same food on every breakfast table, Pepper-Pot.
This national dish has been adapted by every Guyanese whether East Indian, Portuguese, or Black or Mixed or Native Indian. Every Guyanese child wakes up on Christmas morning to the smell of home-made bread and Pepper-Pot on the stove. Many Guyanese who now live all over the world have incorporated this traditional meal as a Christmas dish.
Pepper-Pot’ origin was from the Native Indian who were hunters and they made this dish as a means to preserve their meats since they did not have refrigeration. Amerindians would hunt a cow or a pig or poultry, and threw the animals into a big pot along with Casareep(a vegetable root) which preserved the meat. They would boil it all day and add spices to flavor the pot. This food would last several days.
We kept this tradition every Christmas Morning in our home in the U.S, along with many other Guyanese living in the USA. This year, our oldest daughter will be making Pepper-Pot for the first time in her home, which she will be sharing with her husband, their two young ones and her in-laws.
Hopefully, this unique Christmas tradition will be passed on to all three of our daughters, and hopefully to their kids too. Then, Pepper-Pot can help preserve our identity as Guyanese throughout future generations to come. It would remind our young ones about their past: ties to their roots, as they become stronger and prouder Americans.
The role of culture is that it’s the form through which we as a society reflect on who we are, where we’ve been, where we hope to be.
3. Use Music and Songs to teach them about their culture.
The Irish people suffered great hardship over the centuries, through wars, invasions, oppression, famine, plague, and emigration, but their love of music was what kept their spirits alive. Music has always been an important part of their lives since the ancient days of the Celts. The Celts used Religion, legend and history to pass on their culture from one generation to the next through stories and songs.
Songs and ballads were the voice of the Irish Struggle and fight for freedom into their cities, towns and homes and even new countries. During the great famine of the 1840’s, millions died, and many Irish immigrated to the USA. These Irish-Americans have passed on their traditions through songs and music to their children. For they know:
When you learn something from people, or from a culture, you accept it as a gift, and it is your lifelong commitment to preserve it and build on it.
Traditions and religion is up to the individual and yes ,we immigrants are proud to become Americans. We joyfully embrace the principles of American democracy, identify with U.S. history, and communicate in English. But, we also owe it to the next generation to promote their uniqueness by three easy ways to empower them culturally. That is by sharing our religious values, passing on a traditional dish, and telling them our history through music and songs.
Let us know in our comments how you are passing on your culture to the next generation.