Ethnocentrism can be defined as regarding ones own race or culture as supreme to others. Unfortunately, minority groups living in the United States are under the impression they must conform to the American ways in order to succeed.
As a result the ramifications of ethnocentrism in the United States have caused minorities to change in order to fit in with society. In Langston Hughes poem Theme For English B, Hughes recalls a time when a professor assigned a page that was to come out of you- / Then it will be true. Hughes, twenty-two, colored and born in Winston-Salem was uncomfortable with the assignment at first, being the only black student in the class. He writes about all the things he likes eat, sleep, drink, and to be in love and how being colored doesnt make him not like the same things other folks like.
However, he asks the question So will my page be colored that I write. Hughes is concerned that the white professor will not be able to relate to his paper, Being me it will not be white. Yet Hughes brings up the point that they share a similarity in that the professor and himself are both American. Hughes also writes As I learn from you, / I guess you learn from me describing how ultimately his paper is a part of both himself and the instructor. For what was supposed to be a simple assignment, Hughes tries to discover his own truth in a white society. Similarly the idea of ethnocentrism is discussed in Edite Cunha Pedrosas Talking in the New Land.
Pedrosa at the age of seven remembers her family moving from Portugal to the United States. Instantly, Pedrosa was forced to fit in with American culture. On her first day of school, the teacher announced that her name, Maria Edite dos Anjos Cunha would be changed to Mary Edith Cunha. The reason, the teacher explained was in America you only need two or three names. Pedrosa was devastated, I loved my nameand through it I knew exactly who I was. She wanted to say something to the teacher, but you could never argue with the teacher.
Unfortunately, Pedrosas father did not understand English so she served as an interpreter for her father. At the young age of eight, Padrosa found herself involved in adult situations trying to interpret and translate conversations between her father and a woman at the Division of Unemployment Security. Pedrosa would get caught in conversations concerning money and property, something a child should not be dealing with. Her father abused her ability to speak English to the point that she hated herself for having learned to speak English.
After all, Pedrosa was only nine years old and was forced to conform to American ways in order for her family to survive. Maxine Hong Kingston also writes how she too had to change in order to fit in with American Culture. Kingston, a Chinese immigrant living in Stockton California, was a first generation American in her family. She found herself having to adjust to two distinctly contrasting cultures.
In The Language of Silence, Kingston recalls as a young girl how confusing and difficult the situation was. To most Chinese immigrants, American are refereed to as ghosts- pale, threatening, and, at times, comical specters who speak an incomprehensible tongue. Kingston shows how becoming American means adopting new values, defining a new self, and finding a new voice. In the Chinese culture it is believed that a ready tongue is an evil tongue. However, Kingston mother tells her that things are different in this ghost country.
When Kingston first entered school she was very silent. It wasnt until I found out that I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery. Writes Kingston. Eventually Kingston spoke with the barest whisper only to have the teacher scare the voice away again. She was content with herself though, for the other Chinese girls did not talk either, so I knew the silence had to do with being a Chinese girl.
Kingston remembers how all the children would go to the auditorium except the Chinese girls for our voices were too soft or nonexistent. Kingston felt that she and the other Chinese girls in the class had invented an American-feminine speaking personality Perhaps the biggest consequences of ethnocentrism can be seen in Richard Rodriguezs Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood. Rodriguez was born of Spanish speaking Mexican American family living in San Francisco. He discusses how he gave up his family language when he entered grammar school and the English speaking world.