What's does "multicultural" really mean?
For citizens born in America, the term “multicultural” tends to sit on a spectrum of meanings, usually a connotation of something good.
For many, it means celebrating cultures into which they are not born. For others, it’s something to be merely tolerated. And, for a minority, “multicultural” means a threat to a traditional way of life, one that’s being lost to an influx of foreign or non-majority cultures.
Thankfully, my experience in the United States has been by and large a welcoming one; however, as an actual immigrant, ‘multicultural’ arguably has more meaning
The U.S. immigrant population stands at more than 41.3 million, or 13 percent, of the total population of 316.1 million, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.
Immigration is, in part, what continues to make this a great country, and I think it’s helpful for more Americans to know what an immigrant’s experience is like.
The truly multicultural experience is enriching. Born right in the middle of the India, I was able to travel to both the north and south areas of the country. I took in the multicultural flavors of my country of birth and was able to appreciate India’s diversity, which often has ancient roots. My time in America has enabled me to more deeply appreciate my original culture and appreciate the U.S. when I’m away from it.
You can appreciate what you have in both countries. “In many ways, I am fortunate that I have the means to visit India. Having two globally significant countries to call home has its benefits.
However, many immigrants to America throughout the centuries have been too poor to ever visit their original homes.
Fewer people understand that dual sense of home. While there is a sizeable community of Indian-Americans in the United States, not all immigrants know where to go or how to relate to each other during transition. Immigrants to America tend to have a clear goal in mind and, over time, the new country feels more and more like home. However, roots are still felt in one’s original country, which may have very different cultural norms.
There are pluses and minuses in each culture. America is a first-world, developed country that still has issues, such as advertisements for unhealthy products such as cigarettes and people who are less welcoming to people from other countries. And, unfortunately, racism continues to remain deeply entrenched in [parts of the society] – a problem that immigrants have to often contend with.
India still has a long way to go with civil liberties, including an archaic and unfair caste system and discrimination and violence toward women that is far too common.
And, these differences don’t add up to some kind of balance. Immigrants try to acclimate to these differences and try to work around them, and they often do. Fortunately, this can enrich our minds and experience. I’d like to think that I have a better – more compassionate – take on humanity because of my multicultural background.
Simi K. Rao was born in India and has been living in the United States for several years, working as a physician. She is the author of “The Accidental Wife,” her second novel. The inspiration for her books, and other projects, comes from her own experience with cross-cultural traditions, lifestyles and familial relationships, as well as stories and anecdotes collected from friends, family and acquaintances. She lives in Denver with her family.