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Assimilation into Society

Essay by   •  November 23, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,422 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,338 Views

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Because of the concept of the word race, wars have been started and millions of people have been discriminated against. To me, it appears to be simply another evil in the world that we, as humans, must deal with and potentially overcome. Since the beginning of time, race has done nothing but give people a reason to argue, fight, and discriminate. It gives people reason to not associate with their fellow man. It causes a fear of the out-of-the-ordinary. Without education, race can be a barrier separating us.

It takes an intelligent, genuine person to see past this nonsense. Education helps one realize the fallacy race creates. There is no such thing as a superior race. Unfortunately, many people have difficulty seeing past portrayed stereotypes. It may take a person years or decades to come to terms with the fact that their skin color means about as much as their eye color. Eric Liu, an Asian-American, and Malcolm X, an African-American, take us on their journey through the difficult process of accepting their individual races. Both authors have periods of confusion and disorientation about their races which causes them to change their appearance in order to feel accepted. Ultimately, they overcome their misconceptions and learn to appreciate themselves.

During his childhood, Eric Liu had difficulty coping with the fact that he was an Asian-American living in a predominantly white community. His appearance and his home life, among other things, made him feel out of place. Living in a middle-class suburb that was dominated by "whiteness," Liu was disoriented by his role in school and society.

And so in three adjoining arenas- my looks, my loves, my manners- I suffered a bruising adolescent education... In each of these realms, I came to feel I was not normal. And obtusely, I ascribed the difficulties of that age not to my age but to my color. I came to suspect that there was an order to things, an order that I, as someone Chinese, could perceive but not quite crack. (415)

His confusion only grew with his age. He began blaming his race for his own inability to find a girlfriend. Complimented on being sweet, smart, and nice, he could find no other reason for the void he felt in terms of relationships (Liu 416). As a teenage boy, he needed to find a reason to explain his shortcomings. He needed something to blame for his disappointments and setbacks. He found the easiest solution just by looking in the mirror.

On the other hand, Malcolm X was the small town African-American living in the big city of Boston. He looked to others, specifically his friend, Shorty, to show him the ropes. Similar to Liu, he looked different than the rest of his peers. "'Man, that cat still smelled country.' [Shorty'd] say, laughing. 'Cat's legs was so long and his pants so short his knees showed - an' his head looked like a briar patch!'" (182). Prior to his arrival in the city, Malcolm had never drank alcohol, experimented with drugs, played the lottery, or participated in many of the activities which were daily routines to his new friends. In contrast to Liu, Malcolm's need to assimilate stemmed from the people around him and was not nearly as internally driven. This outside pressure played a huge role in his assimilation into this new culture.

Liu attempted to change in many ways. He battled the Asian stereotypes for years, searching for any possible way to defeat them. The first attempt came when he was in junior high. Sick of his "Chinese hair," he did the only logical thing: he cut it all off. "I had managed, without losing face, to rid myself of my greatest social burden." (416). Liu could possess the straight, stylish hair that he craved, so he got rid of it altogether.

His defiance of Asian stereotypes continued throughout his college years. He wouldn't let himself be that typical Asian kid. He wouldn't let himself be placed in a group. Because of this, Liu made sure not to become part of an exclusively Asian club. He never went out of his way to make friends with other Asian-Americans. Liu became overly obsessed with distancing himself from Asian stereotypes. "If Asians were reputed to be math and science geeks, I would be a student of history and politics... If Asians were shy and retiring, I'd try to be exuberant and jocular. If they were narrow-minded specialists, I'd be a well-rounded generalist." (419) Liu's actions, from shaving his head to hanging out with "fellow marginal public-school grads", gave him the satisfaction he desired, albeit only temporarily.

Comparably, Malcolm's appearance and behavior underwent significant changes as well. Like Liu, he made a major change to his hair. However, instead of shaving it off, Malcolm got a conk. Gone was the nappy, curly "briar

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