Expectations about Somali immigrant assimilation are wrong – By Ahmed Ali Said


I hear some people in our St. Cloud, Minnesota community say immigrants of Somali descent aren’t ready to assimilate but, disappointingly, those people who say that, although well-intentioned, might be wrong about how immigrants are expected to assimilate.

In the immigrant nation of America, assimilation doesn’t mean necessarily for an immigrant community to assimilate completely into the culture of the adopted country. Assimilation should be optimum balance where one can emulate something from the new culture and can have the freedom to keep some of one’s native culture as long as it is not in violation of the law.

As long as the law protects elements of one’s native culture such as religion, one shouldn’t be pushed to embrace every facet of the new culture. Moreover, if one wants to relinquish or add something to one’s culture from the new culture, one should have the freedom to choose. In other words, if one wants to keep one’s native culture alive, one should have the same freedom. However, it is worth emphasizing that this should depend on the choice of the individual and it shouldn’t be converting people collectively from one culture to another.

It is common sense that the new immigrants should always borrow from the new culture. Common sense can show us also that borrowing from the culture of the latest immigrants is useful too. Generations of immigrants came to America at different times with different cultures that shaped the America we have today.

To take an obvious example, if they would have thrown away their cultures and they would have only adopted the native cultures of the New World, we would have a different America that is very hard to imagine. American culture is an accumulation of different immigrant cultures that underwent evolutionary process over the centuries. Nevertheless, the American culture is not stagnant so far and it is still going through the same evolutionary process, although it is quite hard to notice that during the lifetime of a person.

American culture was born out of immigrant cultures and retained some of the best ingredients of those immigrant cultures, whereby citizens with different brains and different cultural backgrounds keep interacting with each other to mellow constantly into one ever-changing wider American community. And their mellowing notably happens in public and in professionalism with one generic American culture that respects multiculturalism under the law despite their differences in the way they worship, the way they dress and the way they fall in love.

Culture encompasses almost everything in life. In this context, the American culture is changing in many fronts, be it technology, innovation and the way things are done in countless realms. In certain areas, however, the change is happening with speed. In other areas, changes might be unforeseen for now. Nevertheless, if you’re conservative, and there is nothing wrong about being conservative, you might prefer to keep certain things the way they are. But change is an inevitable part of life. If you say no to change, you can’t hold back the tide of change for too long. Times change and we change with them.

ahmed-ali-saidAhmed Ali Said is a Somali-American and a former St. Cloud City Council candidate. He lives in St Cloud, Minnesota.




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