By Anya Deshpande and Malavika Eby
What is Biculturalism?
Biculturalism is the coexistence of two originally distinct cultures which often makes it even more confusing for first and second-generation immigrant youth to figure out our identities and where we belong. Depending upon the racial demographic surrounding us, we can even feel pressured to “choose” one culture over the other. Almost all of the people that surround us are from families of different cultures, and sometimes it feels good to have people to relate with. But, when we feel like we’re in a tug-of-war battle between two cultures, it becomes important to find a balance between the two.
Struggles with Biculturalism
The world around us isn’t as black and white as we’d like it to be. Many times, we like to categorize things so they at least seem to make sense to us. Stereotypes, as much as they suck sometimes, make the world easier for us to understand. But when it comes to our own identity, in our struggle to classify ourselves one way or the other, we lose sight of the “middle identity” that exists between different cultures. But, there’s no need for any of us to be fully defined by one label. We’re all so different in our family backgrounds, our interests, our attitudes toward our culture, our upbringing, and the million other aspects of our identities. We don’t need to fit in or change according to what we think a certain identity “should” look like. To add on, identity is a spectrum, even when it comes to something seemingly straightforward like ethnicity and culture. Even if we have the same ethnic background as many of our friends, one part of our culture could influence us differently than it influences them.
Surround ourselves with people who share our identity
While the racial and cultural demographics and norms around us will constantly change, the only approval we need is our own. It’s also important to have diverse friendships. It helps us to better understand others’ attitudes toward their cultures, learn about their diverse experiences and put our identity struggle in perspective. Though there will be differences here and there between how we each perceive our ethnic backgrounds, we can always use others’ experiences as a framework to develop our views. It can also teach us to accept people for who they are and prevent ourselves from racial stereotyping when we open ourselves to diverse groups of friends. If we’re willing to get to know people of all backgrounds, our worldview can be much wider and even richer.
Expose ourselves to both cultures and learn
To conclude, our identities belong to ourselves. It is pretty confusing to come to terms with who we are when we are surrounded by multiple cultures that each seem to want to pull us to their side. Maybe our parents want us to be closer to our roots and maybe it’s easier to fit in at school when we align ourselves with American culture as closely as possible. That’s messy and a very valid struggle. But as said before, no one’s opinion matters here as much as our own. We should explore these different parts of our cultural backgrounds because that’s how we’ll figure out which of those things we enjoy and feel most comfortable with. If we accept ourselves, we will always feel like we belong. If we find our places on the spectrum and validate whichever places they may be, we’ll feel absolutely content just being ourselves.
Also, stay tuned…more to come next month!