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Forming Identities in the White Man's World

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Forming Identities in the White Man's World

Through our readings of the Mexicans in the U.S. and the African-American experience modules, we begin to understand the formation of identity through the hardships minorities faced from discrimination. In this paper, I am going to compare and contrast the ideas of identity shown through the readings. These two modules exemplify the theme of identity. We see how Blacks and Latinos tried to find their identity both personally and as a culture through the forced lifestyles they had to live.

Identity is one of the main questions throughout all of our readings, because it is hard for people to accept who they are in society. Accepting their identity as a minority with little if any freedoms sparks many of the social problems which I will show happening in all communities and cultures. The main issue we will discuss is how social environments effect the search for identity. The Mexicans in the U.S. module gives us examples how Mexicans try to keep their customs while living in a discriminated environment by the Whites. This module also gives us examples how people are searching for personal identity while struggling with cultural traditions. Finally, the African-American module gives us more examples to compare with the Mexicans in the U.S. module, because these readings deal with Blacks finding personal identity also through discrimination from the Whites. To properly understand the theme of identity, we must first look the factors influencing it.

The first influence we see in both modules is discrimination. The Whites as a whole did not give any acceptance towards both cultures. There were several barriers keeping the Blacks and Mexicans from breaking the lines between them and the Whites. First, the Whites saw both groups of people as minorities. They felt both subcultures were unequal from the beginning, therefore holding discriminating beliefs about the cultures from which both groups came from. Also, the Whites were very angry with these groups, who were trying to share the same freedoms.

Next, both the Blacks and Mexicans lived through their cultures and traditions from ancestors. It was very hard for either group to compete with the Whites' economy and lifestyles while keeping their beliefs strong. Now that we have an understanding of the influences on both groups' identity struggles, we will begin the discussion of identity with the Mexicans in the U.S. module.

The Mexicans in U.S. modules gives many examples how strong cultural pasts lead to identity problems in a new society. Also, the module shows us that many Mexicans were not happy with the stereotype formed about their identity. In Between the Lines, we see how Mexicans in America suffer through harsh discrimination, while trying to stay close to their relatives and culture. The letters talk about how Whites did not have concerns with family values or cultural beliefs. Whites based many of their values off succeeding in the economy. Whites in general had no regard for Mexicans as people.

It is hard for them to seek true identity when Whites did not want to give any acceptance to their culture. Between language and culture barriers, Mexicans could not find any means to gain freedom in America. The discrimination facing them not only set them back as a society, but did not allow them to grow personally. We see this throughout The House on Mango Street and Zoot Suit. Both of these books give clear examples how Mexicans on a personal level could not keep struggling with the stereotypes being pushed on them.

In The House on Mango Street, we see how the youth struggled with the discrimination being pushed on them by Whites. Esperanza describes how they lived in such a poverty-stricken



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