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Cultural Identity

Maybe it was easier when we were younger to turn a blind eye to the blatant issues of our cultures. It was easy to pretend to not see the way boys were favoured, the misogyny and various other problematic aspects of our “traditions.” Because that way if we saw something we didn’t like we pretended it didn’t happen so we didn’t oppose it. We were warned of cousins, aunties, distant relatives who defied the status quo, we sneered and talked of “disgrace”. We shunned them and made examples of them. “You don’t want to end up like cousin XYZ, she’s forgotten who she is! She has no respect for her culture.”

The pressures on immigrant children are undeniable. Mothers tell their children, “Work twice as hard.” We have so much to prove, while back home bitter relatives wait in anticipation to disprove the “better life theory.” All the while, Americans see us as a leech of resources, space, and money. The only way to impress them is to be exceptional, but even then we are our own opponent, our own worst enemy.  We constantly try harder than we have to to make our parents’ departure from the motherland seem worthwhile and meaningful, because we are their acheivement.

There is a lot of cultural identity dysphoria that comes from living two lives. With all this learning and discovery, we forget that it leads to decisions and opinions. Experience is the basis of all altering decisions on self. We change because of an environment and what we live. So it’s only normal that with knowledge comes change right? I often think about what it must have been like for my parents only getting the one voice and one opinion which was often distorted by religion might I add. I can’t imagine not being able to do my research on something before I open my mouth. It must have been frustrating to never have an opposing point of view or not have another source to choose from to make up your own mind. Which is what my mom continuously reminds us that we are lucky to have, Choice. So why do I feel so  guilty about not wanting to be a mother or homemaker? Why do I feel guilty about wanting to be more than an object of fascination? Why do I feel guilty about voicing my opinions and breaking the barriers of what’s “acceptable” for a woman to do or say? Why do I feel guilty about telling my mom I don’t actually like our church and that in fact I’m undecided on what my religion is? Why do I feel guilty about loving certain things or dressing a certain way? Because for so long I’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that  feeling that way is wrong that if I went past the line of “tradition” I was a traitor to my people.

But I’m not a traitor to my people. I love my people.

My culture is vibrant and beautiful, but there is no denying its issues. I personally cannot and will not accept the idea that because something has been going on for hundreds of years it must be okay. I don’t like my cultures views on homosexuality, I don’t like my culture’s views on women, I don’t like my cultures views on female sexuality, transgender issues and rape. I disagree with its views on those subjects, but that does not make me disrespectful. If anything, it makes me even more dedicated to it, because I want to see it evolve and transcend and become even better.

Because that how traditions survive: they adapt with time and leave behind more problematic aspects. I think it’s delusional to think that altering a culture somehow takes away from its credibility. Change is necessary for the survival of a culture, and trying to pretend like it’s not is dangerous. I refuse to let a culture I love be turned into a tool for hate because that’s not what its is.

I think it’s a natural progression as a teen to question ideologies and formulate your own ideas on ethics and morality. Disagreeing with aspects you see as wrong in favour of something else doesn’t mean you are losing yourself or who you are. It means you are making decisions for yourself, which may be the most important thing to learn from this. You’re not westernized or white-washed or any of that. You are doing what feels right for you, which is nothing to feel guilty about. You are not “forgetting where you came from”, you are taking steps into making up your own mind.

You’re breaking free from a box you didn’t agree to be put  in. I hope in the future our cultures accept that change can be good.

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