The cultural traditions of one’s ethnic roots are eventually eroded away by the overbearing dominant culture. In a letter to her husband, Mrs. Spring Fragrance recounts a lecture that she had attended, “The subject was ‘America, the Protector of China!’...so much expression of benevolence leads me to beg of you to forget to remember that the barber charges you one dollar for a shave while he humbly submits to the American man a bill of fifteen cents….console [your brother] with the reflection that he is protected under the wing of the Eagle, the Emblem of Liberty” (Far 868). Rather than addressing the unfairness of how Chinese arriving to and living in America are treated, any objections are quelled by blanket declarations of protection. The lecture indoctrinates Mrs. Spring Fragrance into the hierarchy of becoming a “real American” by selling her the idea that she and her husband should not question prejudice and different treatment because living in America is already a great privilege.
[cut this section] Even the markedly traditional neighbor and father of Laura, Mr. Chin Yuen, concedes that “the old order is passing away, and the new order is taking its place, even with us who are Chinese” (Far 871). The larger culture overtakes the minority group’s ethnic values and replaces them with values of assimilation under the guise of “progress.” This reveals the inherent division and elevation of American culture over minority ones.
At the missionary school Zitkala-Ša finds herself trapped in a project designed to erase her identity in favor of a more acceptable, civilized one. She recounts the situation grimly, describing how “It was next to impossible to leave the iron routine after the civilization machine had once beg...
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...committed by the dominant culture, she still faces prejudice from that same culture that views her as the Other. This idea informs how even assimilated peoples face prejudice based on the hierarchy of American identity that sees ethnic people as secondary to white Americans regardless of how much the former adheres to “American” standards.
When there are cultural expectations of conformity and obedience based on an unachievable ideal, the dominant culture silences the population of people who do not fit into the cultural mold. American culture is imposed through not only modes of dress or language, but through the submission of minority populations to the Western influence and control. Having some power in the form of socioeconomic status or gender affords a small buffer against the unrelenting pressure to assimilate, but it does not stop the inevitable.
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