Two days ago a professor from Occidental College, Thaddeus Russell of the American Studies Department, asked the students participating in the Alternative Spring Break a pressing question, “Why is preserving our culture important?” Two days have gone by and I’ve been constantly trying to figure out this question. I knew for me personally preserving my culture is a choice I definitely want to take, but why should we place this as a priority in our society especially since culture is constantly in flux and evolving?
I feel I’ve come across an answer. As a nation founded and built by immigrants, regardless of the treatment the different immigrant groups have received from the U.S., the very notion of immigration is an essential componant in understanding our nation’s identity. I believe it’s important to recognize and know one’s personal culture and background in their family line. If we are called to remember that somewhere down our family’s history there are immigrants who decided to migrate then I believe that can have a humbling effect, and, as a result, decrease the likelihood of xenophobic behavior to spread across our political system and the social and economic discourse that surrounds immigration. Thus, preserving one’s own culture is important, because it allows us to realize that despite being Americans in the present times, our families once came from diverse roots and heritages. Whether we are citizens or immigrants (undocumented or not), we share the common thread of having the history of immigration to America in our families.
And, I do think there is a difference when of preserving culture versus learning about cultures. Preserving cultures implies holding a tie to it while learning about a culture can be done through objective lens, which means losing the connection we can potentially have with each other.
Essentially, I believe that preserving our culture is not only essential to know our personal identity, but to connect to the identity of the U.S. which was founded by immigrants. Also, this will allow us to remember that somewhere down our family’s history immigrants migrated to the United States. In other words, it’s very easy for people to become detached from the issue of immigration when they don’t have a personal connection. But, by remembering our own personal and nationhood’s history I think a nativist mentality can be stopped from being repeated over and over again with whatever immigrant group is prominent at the time.