America is filled with all types of people, whites and non whites, who all have very different cultures because they were all once immigrants. Culture is “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group,”(Dictionary.Com) and American culture is how all those people with different cultures blend together. Sometimes people don’t always have tolerance for one another, but even if we did it wouldn’t be enough. We need to have respect for everyone even though the culture you may bring to American culture may cause people to disagree.
On the first page of The Limits of Whiteness; Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race, the author, Neda Maghbouleh, gives this definition: “ ‘White /Caucasian: a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa’ ”(Maghbouleh 1). This is the definition of white and you cannot change it if you don’t like it. Truthfully, when I started reading The Limits of Whiteness; Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race, I didn’t know what was legally defined as white. I didn’t know there was a boundary that defined what and where is considered white and what is not. Knowing this definition is essential in understanding races and different cultures and therefore understanding what American culture is.
Define white. I bet you’re like hold on didn’t I just tell you what the definition of white is. Yes I did, but what if you asked everyone you knew what they thought the definition is. I’m almost certain they would all be different from each other and from mine. If this definition was widely known than there would be less conflict and people would more accepting. There would be less conflict because “white” would include a wider range of colors and people would be more accepting of others because they are by definition just like you, white. In The Limits of Whiteness; Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race, Maghbouleh uses the lawsuit Pourghoraishi v. Flying J, Inc. (2006) where Iranian American, Pourghoraishi, is denied service:
In the case, Pourghoraishi stopped to fill up his truck and use the restroom at a Flying J truck stop in Gary, Indiana. The manager of the Flying J, Steve Lindgren, allegedly prohibited Pourghoraishi from entering the restroom, unlike two other men there at the time. He initially stated that Pourghoraishi had provided “false information” to the fuel desk but later testified that he could not recall what false information had been provided. Lindgren demanded that Pourghoraishi leave the premises, and Pourghoraishi objected, stating that he had still not paid for his fuel. Larry Williams, an officer with the Gary Police Department who was working off duty as a security guard, then placed Pourghoraishi under arrest, allegedly referring to him as a “mother******” while telling him to “go back to your country.” Pourghoraishi was detained and questioned by the off duty officer for several hours in the manager’s office. Williams also searched Pourghoraishi’s vehicle, took his keys, truck registration, and $160 from his wallet to pay for the gas before charging him with misdemeanor criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
Pourghoraishi was a “victim of an unclassifiable hate crime—because “white-on-white” racially motivated hate crimes cannot technically exist”(Maghbouleh 30). This example is a perfect instance where if the manager and security guard knew the definition of white then this conflict would not have happened. Culture is how we blend together therefore if the definition of white is more widely known than we could blend with one another better and be a more united and become a stronger nation.
Culture is also about being understanding, accepting and not making assumptions about others. This is especially relevant to American culture because it is a composition of all cultures and acceptance is an integral part of making it blend well. In other words, Americans don’t need to be tolerant, they need to be accepting and to have respect. For instance, in The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race, Maghbouleh gives an example of a faulty assumption that was made in which a Mexican American was assumed to be Iranian. Two men deliberately bumped the Mexican American’s car and trailed “him in their car, they then broke into his home and violently beat him in front of his wife and child shouting hateful invectives about Iranians”(Maghbouleh 38). In this case those two men showed to tolerance and made the assumption that he was Iranian, but were in fact very wrong. One should not make assumptions, jump to conclusions, or judge someone before getting to know them. This concept is hardly a new one, but is often forgotten and needs to be remembered in order for the American culture to continue to be united.
Why is it that so many Americans dislike immigrants and want to limit or ban them all together? The answer is I don’t know or understand why. The United States would not exist or be what is today without immigrants. Where are you from? Your grandparents? Your great grandparents? I bet the answer is somewhere other than the United States. The majority of Americans immigrated from somewhere else. For example, on Ellis Island alone “from 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States”(Ellis Island History). Immigrants come to the United States for many different reasons, including to escape persecution and war. For example, an 10 year old Iranian girl “absconded from the multi-systemic injustices and immigrated to the US in hopes of extended opportunities and freedom”(Bahareh). When each immigrant comes to America they bring their culture and will share it every time they interact with someone. Being able to join together even though we are different is what makes us a America and creates the “melting pot” of what is American culture.
The immigration of people and their cultures is what creates American culture because American culture is the composition of all cultures. Not just having tolerance, but being understanding and accepting is crucial to making and keeping America culture one.
Bahareh. “My Immigration Story.” My Immigration Story,
Definition of culture. Dictionary.com
“Ellis Island History.”The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Maghbouleh, Neda. The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of
Race. Stanford, 2017.
Understanding American Culture by NevinS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.