Research Paper on Cultural Identity Crisis
Cultures are considered as beautiful charms and characteristics of life. When people have connections to more than one culture, their relationships seem to be a blessing, however, many bicultural individuals have shown that their connection to two cultures causes them to struggle greatly. This issue causes many to wonder why these individuals repeatedly attempt to remove these charms and experience a cultural identity crisis. Cultural identity crisis is described as being in a confused and unhappy state due to not knowing one’s identity and their relationships with their cultures. This issue typically occurs to mixed-race individuals, young immigrants or those who were born into another culture. When they are pulled between the cultures of their home country and the country they live in, they experience major confusion, sadness and most importantly, exclusion. Because of the lack of connection they have with their cultures, others’ negative influences, lack of sense of belonging, and the lack of sense of individuality, bicultural individuals often experience an identity crisis.
Cultures are made up of tradition, language, values, and nationality and play significant roles in every aspect of life (Khan). These aspects of cultures made them unique and drastically different from one another. Cultures are important since they shape individuals’ mindsets and behaviours. Monocultural individuals are influenced by one culture and can fully absorb every part of their culture. Unlike monocultural individuals, bicultural individuals struggle with this since they are influenced by two cultures. Not only are they unable to fully experience a culture, but their knowledge, mindset and behaviour are altered by another culture (Zou 467). Bicultural individuals also do not have enough time to keep up with trends and news in two different countries which causes them to maintain fewer connections to culture than monocultural individuals. When bicultural individuals are not aware of the culture enough, they do not know what to say or do to be included in the conversation or connect with others. Another significant connection many bicultural individuals may lack is the language. In the book “Representation. Cultural representations and signifying practices,” Stuart Hall explains the importance of language, “To say that two people belong to the same culture is to say that they interpret the world in roughly the same ways and can express themselves, their thoughts and feelings about the world, in ways which will be understood by each other” (Hall 3). Languages act as a form of communication and shared links between people which allow them to express their thoughts with others (Hall). Many fail to stay fluent in one of their languages, and those who are fluent fail to understand the uses of common, popular slangs or ways of speaking and writing informally. Not only are they unable to be included, but they are also instantly branded as foreigners, who lost their roots. Emily Sim explains her experience as a Korean American in her video, “Whether it was people from church, my grandparents, other Korean relatives or my own parents. My inability to properly speak Korean was often time refer to as a shame” (My Asian-American Identity Crisis). Since bicultural individuals are influenced by two cultures, they can also contribute unusual perspectives into the conversation which reinforces their positions as outsiders or cause their peers to think of their culture negatively. The lack of connections ultimately leads to exclusion from others.
Another primary cause of cultural identity crisis is the negative effects bicultural individuals learn from other's judgements. Many find that they are continually identified as foreigners and rarely feel entirely accepted by their peers and family. Mike Chen discusses his experience in his video “ I thought I was White, my friends didn't see me as White. They saw me as this Chinese kid” (The Asian Identity Crisis). Not only are bicultural individuals excluded from both cultures, but they also receive judgmental actions. These actions can range from microaggression, racial slurs and racial discrimination to bullying, threats, and other hate crimes which can cause bicultural people to consider their identity and cultures to be negative and attempt to change who they are (Chen). In the book “Racially Mixed People in America,” Marie Root explained the negative effects on bicultural individuals, “The devaluation of differentness complicates and confirms the experience of not belonging” (Root 307). Their surrounding environment has demonstrated to them that their identity is not only different but wrong. Bicultural people also learn that they are different and could never fully fit in both cultures. These judgments caused them to feel excluded, ashamed and confused.
Since bicultural individuals frequently receive judgements for their differences, they strive for acceptance and a sense of belonging more than others. Therefore, they follow the criticisms from their peers and families, believing that doing so could earn them acceptance. Since cultures have many differences from one another, many bicultural individuals will experience conflicting criticisms from different cultures. They repeatedly find that one culture expects them to behave or think a certain way while the other encourages a conflicting behaviour or mindset (Bhasin). The judgements they receive has taught them that their connections to both cultures are not only strange but unpleasant to others and if they want to be entirely accepted, they must be identical to monocultural individuals. For this reason, bicultural individuals try to fit in with others more by including only one of their culture according to who is present. When they are with their peers, they exclude their family’s culture and when they are with their family, they exclude their peers’ culture. Their reasons to act like monocultural individuals are explained through Ritu Bhasin’s experience, “I also received mixed messages about when it was okay to act "Canadian” versus when I had to adhere to Punjabi ways of behaving” (Bhasin). Bicultural individuals have connection to both cultures, yet they feel excluded by both. This can lead to a cultural identity crisis since they begin to recognize their actions and question which culture they belong to. Typically, bicultural individuals would then end up in the cycle of switching back and forth between acts until they reach a limit that forces them to question their emotions and identity before speaking up about their struggles. The lack of sense of belonging leads to sadness and forces them to change who they are and how they present themselves to others.
With little reassurance and lack of sense of belonging, people also lack the sense of individuality. These individuals stop thinking about themselves and closely focus on how people perceive them (Chen). Even though others’ opinions are not accurate, bicultural individuals believe that following these criticisms can earn them the feeling of acceptance (Bhasin). Their goals are to avoid standing out, feel more accepted and to temporarily push away the frustration or confusion caused by the cultural identity crisis. In the book “Racially Mixed People in America,” Marie Root explains the lack of sense of belonging, “Biracial people are either seen as different or feel themselves to be different from every other group” (Root 306). The acts of switching between cultures slowly become their daily routine which temporarily decreases confusion and frustration. Despite following others’ criticisms to improve initially, they can cause them to feel less than, excluded, different, confused because they taught these individuals to become and present themselves as someone else. This causes their sense of individuality to be weak where they compare themselves to others and are in states of confusion about their identity. The weak sense of individuality cause bicultural individuals to mask their cultural identity from others and themselves which leads to major confusion and an identity crisis.
Bicultural individuals often experience an identity crisis because of the lack of connections they have with their cultures, others’ negative influences, a lack of sense of belonging and a weak sense of individuality. Their lack of connection to the cultures results in little knowledge of pop culture and language which makes it more difficult to communicate and maintain close relationships. Their differences in identity, cultures, and mindset also attract criticisms, racial discrimination and exclusion. These judgements would then teach bicultural individuals to despise their differences and force them to mask their cultural identity. With little connections and lots of criticism, bicultural individuals rarely feel accepted and yearn for the sense of belongings. This forces them to continue masking their identity which weakens their sense of individuality and pushes them into the unhealthy cycle of a cultural identity crisis.