Cultural Assimilation of the Second Generation Immigrants

            It is said that cultural assimilation is a “natural” process through which an individual adopts the culture belonging to a more dominant group. By and large, the terminology is mostly applied to immigrants, because they are settlers in a land dominated by an alien culture. The book, Becoming New Yorkers, makes an attempt to portray the challenges faced in assimilation by the Second Generation Immigrants, who in this case are New Yorkers. The book has shown that this group has traces of their old culture, which have a profound impact on the assimilation process. In other words, they can leave a mark on the local culture. (Kasinitz, 2004)

            In the past, when the European settlers in the States became completely Americanized within a generation or more, it was assumed that assimilation can completely wipe the “old” culture and translate into the mainstream American culture. However, today an increasing number of settlers are maintaining ties with their old culture which can potentially impact the local culture. As mentioned in the introductory chapter, the technology, cheap calls and air tickets rates have further ensures that immigrants keep their children travelling to their country of origin. Even if their children are stopped from travelling, the racially segregated neighborhoods where immigrants live, keep them close to their own culture, a hindrance to the process of assimilation altogether. In the nutshell, sudden exposure to an alien culture and the inability to adapt to it can cause serious problems for immigrants’ children ranging from juvenile delinquency to sexual promiscuity, which are then perceived as direct result of Americanization. (Kasinitz, 2004)

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            However there has been a trend towards segmented assimilation. As we see in where community colleges and unions of minority groups are making attempts at recruiting members of their ethnic origin, educating them what it means to be American. Immigrants tend to join such unions because they can find members of their own ethnicities. The education eventually makes upward mobility possible for immigrants through acquisition of leadership skills within minority institutions first. (Holdaway, 2006) As the chapter seven by Amy Foerster states, the emotional attachment to the countries of origin of the immigrants, which was the Caribbean in the case, was so intense that their union leader asked whether anyone was from Alabama. (Foerster, 2004) Furthermore, Alex Trillo who authored chapter three regards such minority institutions as a second chance for the immigrants to learn to Americanize. He states an example of a Peurto Rican studies class of a community class, where a Cuban-American professor teacher used his immigrant experience of Americanizing. This example dates back to the 60’s when a similar situation existed, and to gain admission to the New York’s City University. (Trillo, 2004)

            It has been learnt that assimilation is an ongoing process and it is subjective to different interpretations as to what levels it have progressed. After all, one thing is clear;  the process of assimilation does not happen as it should be, then it can have a damaging impact on the local culture and values. (Holdaway, 2006)


Philip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf, Mary C. Waters (editors), Amy Foerster Alex Trillo (Authors chapter 7 and 3) (2004) Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press.

Jennifer Holdaway, Philip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf, Mary C. Waters (2006) Migration Information Source. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from Migration Information Source: Becoming American/Becoming New Yorkers: The Second Generation in a Majority Minority City Web site:


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