America is often metaphorically described as a beautiful mosaic, in which individuals across the country share a common nationality but retain their own unique values. The color of every tile in the mosaic is distinct and whole in its own light but joins together collectively to form a single piece of art. Each person’s ethnic culture possesses their distinctive features, becoming an integral part of American society as a whole. Ethnic diversity in America surpasses most countries throughout the world, resulting in an array of distinctive ethnicities—but what specific role does ethnicity play in our identities? More so, what is the importance of ethnic identity in modern American society? Writing Like a White Guy by Jaswinder Bolina, How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua, and Tongue-Tied by Maxine Hong Kingston are three essays that thoroughly describe the role of ethnicity in their identities. Each author analyzes the importance of ethnic identity in contemporary American society by sharing personal experiences they endured due to their ethnicity. The various ethnicities in America are unique to each person which shapes an individual’s sense of identity, brings appreciation for one’s ethnic and cultural identity, and acts as a unifying factor.Order now
Ethnic identity is often defined as the extent to which an individual identifies with a particular ethnic group. The many factors that constitute one’s identity include ethnicity, religion, culture, race, etc. Each element plays a major role in not only how we view ourselves, but how others view us as well. For some people, the expression of ethnic identity may result in positive outcomes, but that does not erase the fact that ethnicity can cause conflicts with stereotyping for others. Bolina discusses the place of colored journalists who encouraged “whiteness” in writing for a better chance to gain publicity and notoriety. He further goes on to argue the dominance of white privilege in modern journalism, as made aware of by his father who suggested a “white” pseudonym when publishing his work. (Bolina x). Struggling to assimilate to American culture shifted Bolina’s identity in a way that dictated his career as a writer. Whether outcomes tend to be negative or positive, expressing ethnic identity is prominent and dictates aspects and conditions of a person’s lifestyle.
Alternatively, the expression of ethnic identity can produce contrasting results for other minority groups. Pride in one’s identity is often celebrated and rejoiced in many modern cultures. For certain individuals, language is an essential asset of their culture and is crucial to ethnic identity. The environment in which a person grows up and the language they become accustomed to at a young age influences the beliefs and values of their culture. Anzaldua refers to her native language multiple times throughout her essay, demonstrating the significance of linguistics in ethnic identity. Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture in the sense that it provides ethnic groups with means of communication. Unlike Bolinda, Anzaldua takes pride in her language and has no reason to tame her wild tongue. Instead, she embraces it by stating, “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity — I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself”’ (Anzaldua x). Appreciation for ethnic and cultural identity stems from the native tongue.
Ethnicity serves as a unifying factor and gives individuals a sense of shared-identities, creating an “us vs. them” mentality. Different ethnicities existing in contemporary American society create unique senses of identity that differs among numerous people. Finding others with the same ethnicity as yourself is key to communicating effectively and provides a feeling of comfort. Kingston writes about feelings of ostracization and being forced into American ideals when immigrating from China, illustrating struggles of assimilating into American society at a young age. Kingston even went as far as referring to Caucasian students in her class as “ghosts” (x). She contrasts the Chinese school system with American school systems, revealing her comfort in being surrounded by those with a shared ethnic identity. When attending a Chinese school, Kingston had more liberation and freedom. She began to feel comfortable speaking to others in her own native tongue without any feelings of shame in her ethnic identity. Finding others with a shared ethnicity unifies groups of people and creates pride in their identity.
The United States continues to grow in numbers by having wide varieties of immigrants arrive with cultural diversity for all Americans to learn from. Ethnicity influences nearly all aspects of American society