Indian Americans & Assimilation Into American Culture

Topics: Asian American, Indian American, United States Pages: 8 (2623 words) Published: July 13, 2006
This paper will focus on Indian Americans and their assimilation in to the United States and its culture. Being a second-generation Indian American, I believe that I can relate to this subject well. I and other second-generation Indians Americans face a unique set of entirely different social issues. I will focus on the main social institutions of family, education, religion, politics, and compare and contrast the experiences of first generation Indian Americans and second generation Indian Americans.

It is a generally known and proven fact that first generation Indians who immigrate to the United States, come in at a higher level of education than other immigrant groups. They already are working professionals or seeking post-baccalaureate degrees. The image of Indians in the United States is generally that they are highly educated, respectable professionals with generally smart children. Indian Americans as a community have the lowest crime rate and the highest earnings, causing them to be dubbed the country's "model minority" in a national survey (Portes, 1996). Allow me to provide some background information on my family and their immigration history, to give the reader a better understanding of my perspective. My maternal grandfather came to this country in 1965, seeking to earn is Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. This opened the door for my parents to come to the United States in 1983. Being born in India, I was at the age of 1 when my parents immigrated, so I was pretty much raised here in the United States. Presently, a large portion of my family has immigrated to the United States.

As a result of the 1965 Emigration Act, which abolished national origin quotas, large numbers of immigrants from Asia entered America. It was then that Indian Americans became a rapidly expanding ethnic group in the US. This new population of immigrants which had high levels of education, were fluent in English, and educated in distinctly European, particularly British, educational systems. The number of Indian American immigrants grew from 15,000 in 1965 to 500,000 in 1986. Although rapidly growing in numbers, it was not until the 1980 census that Asian Indians were listed as a separate ethnic group (Gibson, 1988).

Characteristics of the Asian Indian immigrants include: development of a network of community ties focused around religion and voluntary associations; participation in a complex social life founded on home, work, and community ties; and strong identification with religion and observance of rituals (Saran, 1985). Saran's research suggests that the Asian Indian immigrants express a bicultural behavioral pattern. They possess resources for assimilation and also for maintaining their cultural identity. The Indian American community has been growing rapidly during the last 30 years. The US Census of 2000 counted 1.679 million people in the category "Asian Indian," accounting for 0.60% of the total population of the United States, up sharply from 0.33% as per the 1990 Census. As of the year 2000, Indian Americans were the third largest subgroup of Asian Americans, after Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans (Barnes, 2002). Indian Americans often keep hold of their native Indian tongues, whether it be Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Sindhi, Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Rajasthani, Kashmiri, or any of the other plethora of Indian languages. This is one of their defining traits, unlike many other Eastern minorities that immigrate to the US who attempt to completely merge with the American people, taking on Western names and often abandoning their native tongue. English is usually natural to Indians as it is fluently spoken in India itself.

The family unit and its hierarchy are very important in Indian culture. Respecting your elders and heeding their advice is considered to be paramount. Your elders not only include your parents, but your grandparents, uncles, aunts or...

Bibliography: Agarwal, Priya. Passage from India: Post 1965 Indian Immigrants and Their
Children.Yuvati Publications, Palo Verdes, 1991.
New York, 1988.
Gibson, Magaret A. Accommodation without Assimilation. Cornell University Press,
Ithaca, 1988.
Le, C.N. 2006. "Interracial Dating & Marriage: U.S.-Raised Asian Americans" Asian-
Nation: The Landscape of Asian America
Portes, Alejandro. Immigrant America: A Portrait. University of
California Press, Berkeley, 1996.
Saran, Paramatma. The Asian Indian Experience in the United States. Schebkman
Publishing Company, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985.
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