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Multiculturalism Essay, Research Paper



All Human beings live in what for them is a Multicultural world, in which they are aware of different sets of others to whom different cultural attributions must be made, and of different cultures of which they are aware and expected to operate.

W.H. Woodenough.



The term Multiculturalism has recently come into usage to describe a society characterized by a diversity of cultures. Religion, language, customs, traditions, and values are some of the components of a culture, but more importantly culture is the lens through which one perceives and interprets the world.

When shared culture forms the basis for a “sense of peoplehood”, based on consciousness of a common past, we can speak of a group possessing an Ethnicity. Ethnicity is not transmitted genetically from generation to generation; nor is it unchanging over time. Rather ethnicity is invented or constructed in response to particular historical circumstances and changes as circumstances change.

In this essay, ethnicity will be used to identify groups or communities that are differentiated by religious, racial, or cultural characteristics and that possess a sense of people-hood.

The “Multicultural America” is the product of the mingling of many different peoples over the hundred years in what is now the United States. Cultural diversity was characteristic of this continent prior to the coming of European colonists and African slaves. The indigenous inhabitants of North America who numbered an estimated 4.5 million in 1500 were divided into hundreds of tribes with distinctive cultures,

Languages, and religions. Although the numbers of “Indians” as they were named by Europeans, declined precipitously through the nineteenth century, their population has rebounded in the twentieth century. Both as members of their particular tribes (a form of ethnicity), Navajo, Ojibwa, Choctaw, etc., and as American Indians (a form of panethnicity), they are very much a part of today’s cultural and ethnic pluralism.


The present United states includes not only the original thirteen colonies, but lands that were subsequently purchased or conquered. Through this territorial expansion, other peoples were brought within the boundaries of the republic; these included, in addition to many Native American tribes, French, Hawaiian, Intuit, Mexican, and Puerto Rican, among others. Since 1790, population growth, other than by natural increase, has come primarily through three massive waves of immigration. During the first wave (1841-1890), almost 15 million immigrants arrived; over four million Germans, three million each of Irish and British (English, Scottish, and Welsh), and one million Scandinavians. A second wave (1891- 1920) brought an additional 18 million immigrants: almost four million from Italy, 3.6 million from Austria-Hungry, and three million from Russia. Canadians, Anglo and French, immigrated prior to 1920. The intervening decades, from 1920 to 1945, marked a hiatus in immigration due to restrictive policies, economic depression, and war. A modest post-world war II influx of refugees was followed by a new

Surge subsequent to changes in immigration policy in 1965. Totalling approximately 16 million – and still

In progress, this third wave encompassed some four million from Mexico, another four million form Central & South America and the Caribbean, and rougly six million from Asia. While almost 90 percent of the first two waves originated in Europe, only 12 percent of the third did.

Immigration has introduced an enormous diversity of cultures into American Society. Immigration also contributed to the transformation of the religious character of the United States. Its original Protestantism (itself divided among many denominations and sects) was both reinforced by the arrival of Lutherans, methodists, persbyterians, etc and diluted by the heavy influx of Roman catholics-first the Irish and Germans, then Eastern Europeans and Italians, and more recently Hispanics. Smaller numbers of

Buddhists, Hindus, and followers of other religions have also arrived. In many American cities, houses of worship now include mosques and temples as well as churches and synagogues. Such religious pluralism

is an important source of American multiculturalism. The immigration and naturalizaton policies pursued by a country are a key to understanding its self conception as a nation. If the capacity of American society

To absorb some 55 million immigrants over the course of a century and a half is impressive, it is also,true

That American history has been punctuated by ugly episodes of nativism and xenophobia. With the possible exception of the British, it is dificullt to find an immigrant group that has not been subject to some degree of prejudice and discrimination.

Not all Anglo-Americans were racists or xenophobes. Citing Christian and democratic ideals of universal brotherhood, many advocated the abolition of slavery and the rights of freedmen – freedom of religion and cultural tolerance.

Multiculturalism is not a museum of immigrant cultures, but rather this complex of the living, vibrant ethnicities of contemporary America.

As the United states approaches the twentieth century its future as an ethnically plural is hotly contested.

Is the United states more diverse today than in the past?.. Is the unity of the society threatened by its diversity?.. Are the centrifugal forces in American society more powerful than the centripetal?.. We need a new model, a new definition our identity as a people, which will encompass our expanding multiculturalism and which will define us a multiethnic people in the context of a multiethnic world. We need a compelling paradigm that will command the faith of all Americans because it embraces them in their many-splendored diversity within a just society.

In context of multiculturalism I am going to discuss about “The Asian Indian – American Family” in multiethnic America.


The economic, political, and social oppourtinities promised by life in the united States have drawn immigrants from numerous countries. Although the term “Asian/ Pacific Islander”(Asian American)

Has been offically established by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to include all Asians and Southeast Asians, it actually overlooks major national and racial differences as well as the cultural variations that exists within and among nations and races from Asia. The general public’s overwhelming perception of Asian-American immigrants is that they constitute a “model minority” are professionally successful, and, according to their own cultural notions of health are well Adjusted both emotionally and mentally.

Historical Background

Immigration Patterns

Although documentation of the presence of asian indians dates back to 1790 in masschusetts, it was essentially in the latter part of the nineteenth century that Indians began migrating to North america in significant numbers. These were voluntary emigrants to north America primarily agricultural laborers from the northwestern part of india, who settled in california between 1899 and 1920 and numbered about 7800(Balagopal, 1995; Chandrasekhar, 1982.While immigrants from India continue to enter the United States, an exceptionally large influx of indians occurred in the mid-sixties when INS relaxed the immigration policies. The 1990 census(U.S.Bureau of census, 1992) indicates that Indians are the fourth Largest Asian American group (81,5447)but more recent data devloped by the census bureau (sphs@fyvie.cs.wisc.edu,1994) indicates that there are currently over 1 million Asian Indians in America and that community grew by 125.6 percent between 1980-1990 from 361,531. Indians compose one of the fastest growing immigrant groups, resulting not only from the arrival of new immigrants, but also from the birth of the second generation.

Table Density of Indians in select urban-metropolitan Areas

Geographic AreasPopulation Size

Boston-Lawrence-Salem, MA16,549

Chicago-Gary-Lake Country, IL59,046

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX17,831

Detroit-Ann Arbor, MI18,509


Los Angeles-Anaheim-Riverside, CA68,887

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY199,010

Philadelphia, PA-Wilmington, DL-Trenton, NJ26,120

Defining Characteristics of Indians in the United States:

The migration of Indians is not a new phenomenon because they have long tended to move to different parts of the world to settle whenever the opportunity was ripe. Those who migrated during the migration wave of 1965-1985 were a select group that was seeking professional or advanced (graduate level) educational opportunities. Because India has an educational system with a distinct British orientation,

Most Indians who came to the United States prior to 1985 were fluent in English and had some exposure to western values and beliefs, facilitating their entry into American Society. Because of their facility in English, their high level of education, and their professional skills, most was soon able to establish themselves successfully in the United States. The mean family income is $59,777, the highest of any Asian group in the United States. The per capita income is 25 percent higher than the national average and second only to that of Japanese Americans among all ethnic groups is (sps@fyvie.cs.wisc.edu, 1994).

Overall, the educational level of Indians is also high. The 1990 census data show that 87.5 percent Indians have completed high school, 62 percent have some college education and over 58 percent have at least bachelor’s degree. Professionally 14 percent are engaged in careers related to science, medicine, engineering and technology, and 19.3 percent are in managerial, administrative, sales and teaching positions. Over 5000 Indians are faculty members at Universities in the United States.

Asian Indians have generally been highly successful in their professional and business endeavors and are recognized as productive contributors to the United States Economy. All immigrants to a new country find adjustment to foreign values, expectations, and environment baffling. Immigrants often experience an identity crisis and feel isolated and alienated from both their culture of origin and the American Culture.

Such stress results in one of the three reactions: The individual (1) adheres closely to the value of the culture of origin (2) become overly westernized and rejects Asian ways, or (3) attempts to integrate aspects of both cultures that he or she perceives as most amenable to the development of self esteem and identity.

The Traditional Indian Family

Most Indians base their family lifestyles on the following traditional values, beliefs, and expectations that appear to be common to most Asian cultures:

1. Asian are allocentric (group oriented) not idiocentric (self-oriented), and the individual is expected to make sacrifices for the good of the group – more specifically the family.

2. Males are valued more than females. The society is clearly patriarchal, and men act as head of the household, primary wage earnerrs, decision makers, and disciplinarians, women are subordinate and serve as caretakers; as children, they are groomed to move into and contribute to the well being of the husband’s family.

3. Children are docile and obedient. Their role is to bring honor to their families by exhibiting good behavior, high achievement, and contributing to the well being of the family. Mates are selected for children by their parents; the selection is based on various factors.

4. High levels of dependency are fostered in the family. The female is expected to be dependent – first on her father, then on her husband, and finally on her eldest son.children are dependent emotionally, and often socially on their parents. Traditionally difficulties are handled within the family, whether these difficulties are familial, emotional, professional, financial, or health related.

Cosistent with these patterns the traditional Indian Family system is that of the joint family, in which family is strictly hierarchical, patriarchal, and patrilineal. Three or more generations may live together, with age, gender, and generatioanl status of individuals serving as the primary determinants of behavior and role relationships. In the joint family each child has multiple role models and the supervision and training of children is shared by all the family members. Young children are reared in an authoritarian atmosphere in which autonomy is not tolerated. Children enter their teens and young adult years, guilt, shame and a sense of moral obligation are used as the primary mechanisms of control. This model has a positive aspect in providing a structure that maintains family integrity through a deep seated belief in societal norms and an obligation to duty.

Despite the many changes and adaptations to a pseudo-western culture and a tentative move toward the nuclear family among the middle class, this system is preferred and continues to prevail in modern India.

Traditional Joint Family vs. The Modern Nuclear Family: Some changing Characteristics

Joint Family SystemNuclear Family Structure

Highly hierarchicalMinimally hierarchical

Multiple adult modelsFew adult models

High infant indulgenceLow infant indulgence

Authoritarian and severe childrearingMore permissive and less punitive child rearing

Emphasis on conformityGreater freedom of choice

Deemphasis on autonomyGreater emphasis on individual development

Father’s limited and mother’s dominantshared roles in child rearing

Role in chold rearing

Indian Adolescents

The Phenomenon of adolescence as conceptilized in the west, is relative adsent for the Eastern teenager. Among Indians, the transtional period of adolescence is generally not recognized.Children continue to remain submissive to parents even after they get married, become employed and leave the parental home. The traditional family structure and norms do not reward competitiveness, achievement orientation, or self-orientation within the family. The welfare and integrity of the familysupersedes individual self- identity.

The Modern “INDIAN – AMERICAN” Eethnic Familky

The immigrant group’s soccioeconomic status (including class, education, age, and gender) and cultural

identity( lanuage, religion, rituals, values, dress, food, art, music and political affiliation) greatly impact adjustment, resocialization, and modifiacation of values and beliefs of that immigrant group. Regardless of where Indians have migrated over the years they have tended to move for economic reasons and not because they have been politically or socially opressed in India. They have always maintained strong social, emotional, and cultural ties with homeland, often return to visit India, and usually provide financial support to memebers of their families who remain in that country. This tendency has had significant implications not only for their own integration into the western society but also for the socialization of the second generation and the and the conflicts associated with balancing North American and Eastern values

Beliefs and lifestyles.

Family Structre, Family Behavior and Ethnic Culture

Indian immigrant group is relatively new one, with majority of the first generation now in their mid-life years and with strong connections with their homeland, several family patterns have remained consistent with traditional ones. It is only now ,when large number of second generation Indians are reaching adolescence and adulthood, and the traditional cultural values and practices are being questioned, presenting conflicts of a nature the first generation had not envisioned.

Family Roles

Regardless of the religious and cultural backgrounds of Indian Families, perceptions of the role of women in the Indian Family have been inculcated into the society through classical literature and throughout Indian civilizations, and three pervasive models are prevalent: 1) Sita, the heroine of the “Ramayana” who provides the feminine ideal of the chaste, self sacrificing wife 2) The powerful archetype – the Mother

Who can be gentle or aggressive, but ultimately is the supreme nuturer and 3) the dependent – first on her father, then on her husband and, finally on her son. These role models for womens and the realationships between the genders persist both in modern-day India and in the United States today. In a recent qualitative in-depth study of Indian immigrant families, Dasgupta (1992) found a rigid division of roles, with women being primarily responsible for house keeping, including cooking, cleaning and child care,and men fulfilling the role of the primary breadwinner. Eighty percent of the women reported that their most important activities were to care fort their husbands and children by cooking for them and “keeping the house” while majority of the men felt their resposibility was to protect and provide for their families and make major family decisions in areas such as the children’s education, home car purchase, and family vacations. Depending on the degree to which immigrant parents are willing or able to assimilate western value, the second generation faces considerable value conflict, role conflict,and role discrepancies, often resulting in role parialization during the adolescent and young adulthood phases of development. Especially because the parent generation retains traditional values and attitudes and is unaware of the conflict their children experience, it continues to exert pressure toward conformity.

Areas of Nonintegration

Parental PerferenceFamily’s Coping Strategy

FoodIndian, VegetarianTwo Menus: Indian for parents, America for


ClothingSari, Salwar KamezParental Garb:professional-Western; social

Indian, Children’s garb:

ReligionPrimarily Hindusim, Some Islamorganization of Hindu religion and practice

In temples(normally,not an organize religion).

LanguageHindi or one of the 24 or more IndianPoor mastery of Indian language by childrenLanuagesEnglish primary in Home.

FreindshipIndian, preferably with those From the Parents- Minimal social contact with

region in India.Americans; Children – significantly more freindships with Americans.

EntertainmentMovies, Eating out, Dinner PartiesFew Indians movies, restaurents available;

Primary entertainments is large dinner

Parties with Indians.

Children often excuse themselves.

Source: U.A. Segal (1991)

Demographic Characteristic of the Family

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