In a recent conversation about welcoming international students, one of my friends said excitedly “we can help them assimilate!”
I nodded and smiled, and the conversations moved on from there. Ever since then, though, I’ve been thinking about that interaction.
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The word “assimilation” made me think of Japanese internment; of how we as a country ripped apart the lives of those we saw as “other.”
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Instead of working towards “assimilation”, can we work towards “code-switching”? Can we help people to competently navigate the confusing waters of multiple cultural contexts while honoring their story and their identity – by honoring who God has made them?
Code-switching is natural for me, as a child and grandchild of immigrants. I know the rules of people-engagement at home, and I know the rules at school and at work. I know that what is “common sense” or “good manners” differs in each context, and usually am quite aware when I deliberately break the norms, defiantly challenging perceptions of “right” and “normal.”
I refuse to assimilate. I refuse to deny the experiences, gifts, and heritage that God has given me. I refuse to deny the rich inheritance of stories, values, experiences, and history in my parents’ stories. I also refuse to “help someone else assimilate.”
I don’t want them to give up their identity, to feel like who they were and where they came from is not valued.Ombre Boots Grey Stripe Print Women's Welly Joules Rain Cool vwP6Avqx
What I do want to do, though, is to equip them to read the clues in whatever context they’re in, and know how to succeed. I want to help people understand that in different contexts, the same value can be expressed differently. I want them to see that being a good employee or student and the respective expectations of communication, respect, and assertiveness can look different in different cultures, even in different companies.
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