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Amy Tan admits that language is a big impediment to many non-natural born Americans like her. She thought her mother’s broken English had almost an effect on limiting possibilities in her life as well. This is well highlighted when her boss dissuaded her from venturing into writing as he assumed her English was not good enough. He thought accounting was ideal for her as she was of Asian descent. Her performance too, at school was highly affected by the limited English. She rarely scored well in English as mathematics and sciences. The bias generated towards many of her ilk she contends may be the reason there are very many Asian-American students being encouraged to deviate from writing as a pastime or even a profession. It may be possible that the stereotype advanced by the American society towards the “broken English” speakers has led to career paths chosen by many non-natural born American citizens.
Cultural elements can further affect one’s self-esteem in a social setting. Many of those that can’t converse in proper English are forced to shy away from meaningful interactions with others. They are also overlooked when it comes to vital information which may affect their perception of self-worth. In Nora Okja Keller’s My Mother’s Food, the author shares her experience with bias and stereotypes extended to her due to her mother’s traditional food, Kim chee. Norah Keller was raised on kim chee but was forced to avoid it in her teenage years due to her schoolmate‘s assertion that kim chee made her smell Korean. This affected her self-esteem making her always self-conscious of how she smelled. “I became ashamed by the kim chee” the author cites in her narrative. She was not able to fully come to terms with her Korean heritage. She would always try to avoid being perceived as being non-Korean by vehemently denying her love for kim chee only dubbing it as “something my mom eats”. Amy Tan was also embarrassed by her mother’s broken English at a younger age. The knowledge that her mother sounded less refined unlike her peers’ parents must have made her feel rather low among them.
As much as some of these cultural elements are perceived as detrimental to those pursuing success in America, it is prudent to note that not all is lost. Having a rich cultural background is very important for one’s personal growth as an individual. Marcus Garvey once said “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. This statement validates my point that it is time the American society embraced diversity wholeheartedly for it to retain its enviable as a cosmopolitan nation and a land of opportunities. The bias and stereotype generated due cultural elements should be done away with by incorporating a tolerant psyche in the American people.
In conclusion, the media, social institutions, and the political leadership should be at the forefront in addressing this issue. The school curriculums across the nation should have cultural diversity integrated in studies. Young Americans should be taught to appreciate diversity early enough. The media should also be keen on ensuring its content reflects diversity and inclusivity in order to ensure that the stereotype mentality founded on cultural differences is done away with. The political leadership on the other hand should be task with the role of sensitizing the public and making laws that enhance harmony, tolerance and diversity. These are but a few solutions to ensuring that success is pegged on individual attributes rather than cultural bias and stereotypes.
Okjer, Norah K. "My mother's food.(kim chee)(Column)." New Woman 27.9 (1997): 68-71. Print.
Tan, Amy. "Mother Tongue." Composing Identity through Language, Culture,Technology and the Environment. 2nd ed. G. Sibylle, 2005. Print.