In the country where being an American presupposes also having another hyphenated identification pointing to the origin of one’s ancestors, having a strong identifying with one’s roots is crucial. Yet, some identities are associated with unwanted racialization and make one subject to various social stereotypes which may lead to being discriminated against. While Mexican Americans are characterized by high assimilation rates, they still face discriminatory treatment in our society.
In the country of immigrants, it is common to differentiate between ethnic identities. Mexican American identity signifies that the person immigrated from Mexico or is of Mexican heritage (Schildkraut). While cultural identities of this sort are common for American citizens, Mexican American is subject to racialization. This conclusion is reached based on the facts that people tend to stereotype people of Mexican appearance and that official national census started including Mexican as a separate category of self identification along with Black and White (Ortiz).
Classifying all people of Mexican descent despite significant differences among them is reflected in the treatment towards them. A large study by Ortiz and Telles has found that Mexican Americans commonly experience discrimination. Some employers refuse to hire people based on their ethnic background. In schools, it is common for students of Mexican descent to encounter teachers expecting them to be academically inferior, or not to know English. Also, there are incidents of racial profiling by police officers which makes it more common for a Mexican looking person to be stopped by police (Ortiz).
Despite being perceived as a very different from the majority of American, Mexican Americans are fast to assimilate and integrate into American society. Hence, studies report that one third of second generation and half of third generation Mexicans identify as Americans (Desilver). Further, it was found that second and third generation Mexicans’ opinions about what being an American match the opinions prevalent across the whole society, indicating that they are well integrated into American diverse culture (Schildkraut).
Further, second and third generation Mexican Americans manage to overcome the disparities that exist in education and income levels between Mexican Americans and Whites. Mexican immigrants tend to have low levels of education which leads them undertake low-paying jobs when they arrive to the United States. Yet, their children and grandchildren easily integrate into English-speaking society by attending American schools and being in close contact with peers from different ethnic backgrounds, thus achieving higher socioeconomic standing (Ortiz).
Mexican Americans hold true to their heritage and culture while assimilating to American society. Economic and social integration does not force Mexican Americans to abandon their unique culture and they tend to maintain family values, gender roles, preferences for food and music, typical for this culture. Perhaps the similarity in core beliefs and values leads the majority of Americans of Mexican origin to marry people who also have Mexican heritage(Ortiz), thus, supporting integration in Mexican American community.
Lastly, Mexican American identity, as perhaps any strong identification with some social group, may serve as a positive mediator between a person and the larger context of diverse American society. Namely, it was found to lower the acculturative stress in Mexican American students. This can be explained by the sense of community and belonging identifying as Mexican American provides, that helps young people feel secure while exploring and adopting to the new culture (Iturbide).
All in all, being a Mexican American identity, as perhaps having any other ethnic identity in the United States, is associated with its difficulties and rewards. I find it notable that Mexican Americans are able to integrate into American way of living and hold true to their culture despite practices of stereotyping and racializing that exist in our society. I also think that their being able to preserve cultural identity might be facilitated by the fact that Mexico is not far away which allows for relatively frequent visits and maintenance of family ties.
- Desilver, Drew. “How Mexicans in the United States see their identity.” Pew Research Center, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/05/03/how-mexicans-in-the-united-states-see-their-identity/. Accessed 10 September 2017.
- Iturbide, Maria I., Raffaelli, Marcela, Carlo, Gustavo. “Protective Effects of Ethnic Identity on Mexican American College Students’ Psychological Well-Being.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, vol. 31, no. 4, 2009, 536-552.
- Ortiz, Vilma, Telles, Edward. “Racial Identity and Racial Treatment of Mexican Americans.” Race and Social Problems, vol. 4, no.1, 2012.
- Schildkraut, Deborah, J. “Defining American Identity in the Twenty-First Century: How Much “There” is There?” Journal of Politics, vol. 69, no. 3, 2007, 567-615.