January 28, 2014

Students talk culture clash

A panel of immigrant students highlighted their first-hand experiences in a discussion on immigration at an event sponsored by the African-Caribbean Students Association (ACSA) and M.E.Ch.A (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) at UChicago, held in McCormick Tribune Lounge Thursday evening.

The event, moderated by second-year and ACSA member Ben Lusamba, began with a lecture by history professor Rachel Jean-Baptiste, who specializes in the social, cultural, and political history of central Africa and Francophone Africa. Originally from Haiti, Jean-Baptiste came to the U.S. when she was 10 years old.

Jean-Baptiste stressed the need to look at immigration from a different perspective, one that goes beyond what she perceives as the societal tendency to relate it only to its political and economic implications.

“[It’s important to] use a different epistemological and methodological form of knowledge,” she said.

She suggested that it is more beneficial for us to listen to and learn from the “human stories” of immigrants.

Additionally, Jean-Baptiste noted that changing demographics and the growth of the immigrant population have impacted the educational environment at the University of Chicago, citing the greater importance that the University places on demographics in the admissions process.

After the lecture, a panel of six immigrant students from Africa, Latin America, and Asia discussed their personal experiences, touching on clashes with their parents, differences with their non-immigrant peers, and stories of adapting to American popular culture.

Despite differences in background, all of the panelists experienced similar culture clashes. Torn between the native cultures impressed upon them in their homes and the American culture that surrounded them, they cited language, music, and gender roles as some of the dividing factors.

In concluding the event, Lusamba said that he hoped this conversation on immigration would continue long after the evening’s discussion.