Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Melting Pot

By: Jaia

The Hmong culture had changed continuously in so many ways overtime. Throughout the years that Hmong families and community have been in the United States, there have been so many changes within our culture and the Hmong people. I feel as if the Hmong community has changed the meaning of what a true Hmong culture really is, and who Hmong people really are, since their arrival in the United States. In our Social Work 280 class we have talked about theories. I really believe that the melting pot theory fits with the Hmong community and culture because many of us had come and take on or adapted ourselves to the American culture. I also think that not just the Hmong culture has had to adapt. The larger American society has had to adapt also due to the many different cultures in the USA today. America has changed the Hmong community in a good way because we have adapted many things. For example the Hmong communities started to adapt by letting their daughters go to college and let their children live on campus. This is unlike in the past when the Hmong first migrated here, and the parents didn’t let the girls do anything educational, or let their children join clubs and activities. I can tell that the Hmong culture has adapted and changed a lot of who they used to be to make them who they are today as Hmong American. I was born here and I’ve learned how to adapt to my environments by learning from the people around me. And as I learned to adapt to it, I have also witness those after me that have done the same things I did right away, adapting with the help of those who were here before them.
“Past generations of immigrants in America, it is argued, became successful by shedding their historical identities and adopting the way of their new country, which allowed them to achieve social mobility” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 65). I picked this statement because I believed that the meaning behind it is true. Being a Hmong person myself, I can see my culture changing rapidly from generation to generation. In order for us to feel comfortable and fit into the American life and dream, we have reshaped and shaped our culture so many times as the years goes by. The biggest change that we have made is the clothes we wear. We have put away our traditional apparels and accessories in suit cases and boxes, and store them deep in the attic, basement, or the closet. And we have learned to put on the American clothing of jeans and t-shirts; not only here in America, but also in Thailand and Laos, where we mainly used to wear our traditional clothing. During special events we will take them out and put them on, and during the early evening, put them away until another event comes around.
With adaptation and changing come sacrifices. Sacrifices such as the language of the Hmong people. As the generations continue, each generation speaks less and less of our Hmong language. And this had created an invisible barrier between the older generation and the newer generation. My three year old niece, for example, can hardly speak or understand the Hmong language. Every word she says and understands is just English. When my parents talked to her, the invisible barrier would appear; they can neither understand her or her them. And almost like my niece, I find myself constantly talking in English and understanding it more than my origin. I find it very hard to stop all the time and try to speak Hmong to people who don’t understand English. And just like my niece and me, many of the Hmong nowadays speak more English than Hmong, and this is making our language disappear little by little.
I can go on for days and days pointing out many of the changes in the Hmong culture and how we have adapted to the American culture and way of living. We don’t think about these changes on a daily basis, but they are making a big impact on how we live today. By adapting so many things into our culture, we are more successful and we have accomplished many things that we weren’t able to do in the past. More Hmong people own their own businesses and more young women are getting a chance to get a degree if they choose to. Now more Hmong people are pursuing a higher education after high school than ever before. By adapting many of the American ways into our cultures, we have learned to take opportunities that are open to us now that was never offer in the past. But as we try to take these opportunities and become successful people, we are losing the most important thing to us, our traditions, our cultures, our language, and our ancestors.

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL Lyceum Books, Inc.


  1. Thank you for your post Jaia! I loved that you included examples from your life.

    This quote: “past generations of immigrants in America, it is argued, became successful by shedding their historical identities and adopting the way of their new country, which allowed them to achieve social mobility”. I find this statement completely true also. When reading this chapter in the book, this quote stuck out to me. From the beginning of the U.S., all of the cultures that migrate to the U.S. stripped themselves from their identities so that they could assimilate into the culture of the U.S. at that time. It saddens me that many of the cultures that come to the U.S. have to assimilate with the culture that the U.S. holds. Many important pieces of culture are being lost through out every generation, for example the Hmong language. I feel that language is one of the first pieces of culture that is lost when assimilating into the mainstream U.S. Many people feel pressured to speak and learn English. Usually the only time they speak their native language is at home with their families.

    I do agree with you that some pieces of Hmong culture have changed for good; for example girls having an ability to go to school. This is an amazing change for the female Hmong population. Many other populations have benefited from the assimilation also, but I just wish it was possible for people to be apart of both cultures and not feel pressured from one society to the next to strip themselves from their culture.

  2. I feel that as a first generation immigrant from Mexico I can relate to this is so many ways! I think that every culture goes copes with assimilation in different ways, but in the end it’s the same experience and we can learn from each other. For example in the Latino community there is also a big disconnect between parents and the youth. Even though our parents teach us to be proud of our heritage and always put family first, it’s very hard to balance living in an individualistic culture.
    In the United States we are pressured through various mediums to assimilate. In other words we are put in a circumstance that tells us that life would be easier if we just shed our culture, became a clean slate, and adopt American culture. I saw this happen in front of my eyes when I worked as a teacher assistant in a Minneapolis school. A teacher told a group of Latino first graders playing a traditional game, “Shhh! Stop speaking that Spanish.” When someone tells us to not speak our language, it as if they are telling us to just stop being themselves.
    What does that tell our children and future generations? They take this and internalize it. They become ashamed of who they are and the culture is gone in a matter of generations. One statistic says that by the third generation, the native language of immigrants is completely gone.
    Is this inevitable? I don’t think so. I think that we can be successful, get an education and find a place in this country without having to sacrifice our core values. It is difficult, but for me it’s worth it. I believe that the Hmong culture is so strong and I would encourage the youth to take a stand against this. I for example look for opportunities to teach others about Latino culture and whenever I have the chance I take what I can learn from elders in my community.
    What I’ve learned is that immigrants do a lot of learning about American culture. Given the fact that the United States is an international community, Americans, which I am as well, also need to make an effort to learn about our cultures and languages. If we as Americans can begin to move from tolerating to accepting, I believe that new immigrants and persons of color will be able to more easily retain their cultures and be successful.


  3. Celia,
    I agree with what everything you had said. I do see that Hmong and Latino are very similar but not just we but I really think that many other immigrants groups. Yes I do feel like in the United States we are pressured to change ourselves and change many things that we do. Everybody should fight for their rights and be proud of who they are no matter what. If something isn’t right they should have the voice to say that it’s not right and fight for it instead of letting people take over them. I also agree with what you said that everybody needs to learn more about their heritage and their culture. Everyone has a culture and they also have a story behind how they got here so we should be proud of it and not be afraid to share it with the world and people around us. Most times people around us would feel the same way or have similar stories.