Today’s readings highlighting different ethnic groups in America left me thinking about the concept of identity. Gloria Anzaldúa’s excepts on being a Chicana in America and having a muddled identity is a true problem people face. In today’s globalized world, the ethnic groups of the past are intertwining and spreading out across the globe. Before the exploration of the new world in the sixteenth century, it was not uncommon to stay within twenty miles of your birthplace your whole life. Today, there have been dozens of ethnic migrations and identity is more ambiguous than ever before. Gloria Anzaldúa writes about being caught in the middle ground of identities, cast away from every individual ethnicity for not being of pure blood. Identity is one of the fundamental traits of being human. Being able to identify yourself with a group and a culture is very important for your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. When your mixed culture is looked down on by society, it can be very challenging. Language is a key component of identity and can be used to instantly discriminate against certain identities. The broken Spanish spoken by Chicanos can be separated from the Latino Spanish.
The chapters from How the Other Half Lives give stark accounts of the terrible lifestyles adopted by immigrants to America. The Italians were forced to work demeaning jobs for little pay and the Chinese ran small shops to try and make ends meet. Both communities were discriminated against for being immigrants and were treated differently by their neighbors. I found it interesting how both ethnic groups turned to addiction to help cope with their struggles of assimilating to a new culture and being ostracized by the people who they thought were accepting of others. The Italians turned to gambling while the Chinese turned to opium, both vices having considerable impacts on the communities. The communities were objectified as vile and degenerate because of the addiction problems and were stuck in a never-ending hole of being culturally inferior. When your identity is decided for you by outsiders, it Is challenging to break that mold. We see this today with urban black communities that are stereotyped as gang members and drug dealers by the outsiders. Because of the external pressure, many youths feel like they have to be like that because that is what they are viewed as. It can create a vicious cycle of poverty, addiction, and an identity crisis that is very difficult to break from.