We hear the term “Assimilate” a lot nowadays, especially with the high influx of immigrants that have swept across the Western World. The general idea that people should somewhat adapt to the environment they become a part of is one that makes sense and it is a notion that i support. Yet i feel the word assimilation has been hijacked by some people who would not accept these new immigrants regardless. When i hear people telling others to “Assimilate” it to me almost sounds like “Subjugate” in the sense that they want the immigrants to mirror them to become even remotely acceptable in society.
Sometimes though no amount of assimilation would make certain types of people happy. Let us look at this simple fact, when people are telling others to “Assimilate” they are basically saying “We want you to be like us”. Did the English conform to assimilation for the aboriginals when they came to Australia? Or did they completely disregard and disrespect their customs? The fact is now, when other migrants come into this country they are hounded for being too different, they are pressured to conform to our society and are told to assimilate or get the hell out.
Perhaps if we had a good historical example then perhaps those words would hold some power, yet the fact is we know that the ancestors of those who scream for assimilation were a people who did not assimilate to the land they migrated to (Australia) as a matter of fact they dominated, expanded and exploited- not assimilated! Should we expect migrants to come to Australia and make the effort to best fit in and adapt to their society? OF COURSE. This is a great thing and i openly encourage all immigrants to come here and make the best of their situation- to grow and expand in knowledge and to be a part of the community. This does not apply only for Australia, any nation that applies pressure to a people to become carbon copies of themselves have got the wrong idea in my book.
The sad thing is when we see the “ghettos” of Sydney that are divided into sections (Vietnamese, Greek/Italian, Chinese, Croatian, Lebanese, Sudanese etc) what we see is a segregation that is a direct result from a lack of acceptance. When would an immigrant reach an acceptable amount of “Assimilation”? When they start drinking beers? When they start eating pork? When they stop wearing headscarves? When their skins lighten a shade perhaps? Everyone has a different idea on what being an Australian is. This fantastic country is one full of flavour and many different influences infused into one.
What is Australian for one, is unAustralian for another. What do we expect from immigrants and what amount of assimilation is enough for them to be accepted members of our community? Does it not phase you that most migrants are like you and i for the fact that they simply want to live a normal life, to support a family, to be happy and live in peace? Is that not an Australian enough ideal? Why do we need to further push them and attempt to strip them of their cultural identity for them to essentially be a part of the Australian framework?
“At the same time, they (ethnic Australians) feel that they are constantly made to feel as though they must choose (between their culture or Australia), as if these two sentiments are in opposition when to them, they clearly are not. These are deeply paradoxical statements that are being made.“
– Dr Greg Noble, the acting director of the University of Western Sydney’s Centre for Cultural Research
Is it acceptable that we taunt a people for not looking like us? For not acting like us? For not believing like us? For not eating and drinking like us? For not dressing like us? They try to tell us that the Ghetto enclaves we see scattered around Sydney full of ethnics is a result of their disinterest in wanting to assimilate to the wider Australian audience, do they not reflect that the reason they move to ethnic ghettos is perhaps they were sick of not being labeled as “Australian” enough and moved to these areas to find comfort, community and acceptance? Granted, in saying that there ARE some people that do choose to not assimilate, i find these people to be a stifle on self production and a degradation to our society for that they have no interest in mingling with the greater community, nor learning the aspects of basic Australian heritage, though i don’t feel those numbers are high at all.
Let us be more careful with the word assimilation. Does this message really come from our honest wanting for people to join our community, or is it our own insecurities coming into play here? At what point has a migrant had his culture stripped enough for him to be Australian? I personally think as long as these people are not breaking any laws of the land- how they look, how they dress, what they believe and what they eat really does not matter to me, nor should it matter to you- the fact that they aren’t breaking any laws and perhaps have the same goals and ambitions are Australian enough- whatever happened to a “Fair Go“? How about we give new migrants a fair go, and perhaps if we were more embracing and invited them to the greater community they would break away from the ghetto enclaves they call come, because a person could only try hard enough to please you before they give up and get lost in the abyss of “Migrant territory” which marks the invisible borders and barriers on Sydney’s map.
Peace, Salam Alaykum.