Many aspects of my life have influenced my road to self-identification. Being a second-generation South Asian American, “Elena,” my rich Nepali background and American upbringing are intricately intertwined with my ethnic history. I could merge aspects of my native country’s social influences and my ancestry and grasp the intricate details of my cultural background thanks to the perspective that came into my late 20s. Since moving from Nepal to the United States, our family has aimed for upward mobility, and the “Elder Guide,” who represents the older generation, has assisted us in this endeavor. Our cultural heritage is a vital component of our identity as a family, even though we follow simple religious practices derived from Buddhist traditions and our Nepali culture.
My age, ethnic origin, cultural background, and the diverse culture in which I was raised have all influenced the dynamic process of self-identification that I have undergone. My viewpoint has been influenced, as a younger member of the family, by the combination of the subtleties of adjusting to the American way of life and the traditional Nepali practices given down by the ‘Elder Guide.’ My understanding of cultural standards has been profoundly altered by my upbringing in the United States, which has enabled me to accept a hybrid identity that combines Nepali traditional values with the social fabric of my home nation. Our family’s socioeconomic journey from Nepal to the United States has given us a strong work ethic and perseverance. These principles serve as the foundation of my identity and how I see my role in society, together with the lessons of our Nepali ancestry.
In combining the diverse cultural fabric of my Nepali heritage with the social pressures of being a South Asian American, this self-reflection delves into how I have negotiated different aspects of my identity at various times.
Studying and learning about my family’s history has given me a deep appreciation for our ancestry, particularly after the enlightening conversation with “Elder Guide.” Our origins are firmly ingrained in Nepal’s dynamic culture, which forms the basis of our customs and behaviors. The story of “Elder Guide” gave a clear image of the struggles and goals that were a part of our family’s immigration to the US. Their focus on preserving our cultural legacy while adjusting to a new setting sheds light on the enormous obstacles that past generations encountered and underscores the significance of maintaining our Nepali identity in a foreign country.
The continuity and adaptability of our family’s journey are shown by comparing the experiences of several family generations. The principles that underpin Nepali culture, such as respect for elders, living in a community, and pursuing education, were steadfastly preserved and passed down by “Elder Guide” and their contemporaries. Their incorporation into American culture was a formative experience that influenced how they saw the preservation of their cultural heritage. On the other hand, my generation is at a fascinating turning point. We have created a distinctive mix of American and Nepali traditions while honoring and appreciating the history of our ancestors and embracing the evolving social landscape. Our identity is a synthesis of the profoundly ingrained wisdom of our forefathers combined with the flexible adaptation that the modern world demands.
As a visual narrative, the graphical timeline documents our intergenerational journey through racial, ethnic, and cultural history. From the story’s origins in Nepal to its transfer to the United States, it chronicles significant cultural turning points and alterations. This image exemplifies the intricate web of our cultural customs and how they have changed to accommodate the demands of a new country while continuing to be fostered and passed down through the years. It illustrates how our lineage and the acculturation process interact, highlighting the modifications and alterations that have molded our family’s history.
From the interview and following comments, it is evident that our family’s cultural legacy is resilient, with customs being upheld while simultaneously adapting to a changing environment. Because of this understanding, we can appreciate the enduring legacy of our Nepali heritage while also embracing the dynamic nature of the modern world. This paradox has shaped our family’s identity.
Continuum of Privilege and Oppression
Comprehending the interplay between privilege and oppression in my family’s past requires a multidisciplinary investigation. It explores how our experiences have changed over time, influenced by outside factors and our changing viewpoints (Sagy et al.,2018). I will discuss situations of oppression – whether one is being oppressed or accidentally oppressing others – and the feelings connected to these experiences in this part, as well as the circumstances in which my family has had the privilege and the emotions that have gone along with them.
There have been privileged times incorporated into our journey throughout our family’s history. ‘Elder Guide’ and his generation came to the United States in search of a better life, and that journey opened our eyes to a world of possibilities and privileged moments. Having access to improved educational opportunities was a significant component of privilege. The trip was started by the “Elder Guide” and the older generation, who stressed the transformational potential of education and imagined a better life for their children. Many saw this access to high-quality education in the US as a means of achieving success, self-determination, and taking advantage of more chances than they might have back home (Blossfield & Von Maurice et al., 2019).
Concerning finances, our family’s relocation to the United States was advantageous. A better life free from financial restraints was what “Elder Guide” and their peers yearned for, but it was often difficult to get in Nepal. A concrete change from constraints to possibilities was represented by the capacity to get steady employment, create a pleasant living, and support the family. The pursuit of goals and objectives that were previously unattainable was made possible by the feeling of security and freedom it brought.
Despite being challenging, assimilating into American culture eventually became a luxury. Since I was born and reared in the United States, I could integrate into the national culture more quickly than previous generations. Fluency in the language, familiarity with social standards, and a deeper comprehension of American culture were all made possible by this upbringing. We could better negotiate social institutions because of this adaptation, which gave us a sense of inclusion and belonging to the larger American group.
The family felt the profoundly altering effects of these fortunate encounters. Emotions of empowerment, thankfulness, and optimism often accompanied the feeling of privilege. The opportunity gave me a fresh feeling of purpose and optimism about the future. Dreams became real, and a route to success was made possible by the capacity to access opportunities and experiences that had previously been out of reach. This led to a feeling of satisfaction.
A sense of accountability went hand in hand with the sensation of privilege. In order to improve the future for the next generation, it was understood that these possibilities needed to be appreciated and taken advantage of (Nemetz & Christensen,1996). The benefits were seen as a gift and a chance to advance in life and create a more stable and prosperous environment, highlighting the value of hard effort, education, and cultural preservation.
Although we have experienced privilege, we have also experienced oppression. There were unique difficulties associated with being an immigrant in a foreign country. Due to misconceptions and biases about our Nepali background, the “Elder Guide” and the elder generation experienced discrimination, cultural misunderstandings, and prejudices. Prejudices like this often resulted in emotions of alienation or marginalization, which impeded assimilation and fostered a sense of loneliness (Nemetz & Christensen ,1996). Early years in the United States were characterized by difficulties communicating, assimilating into the new culture, and fighting for acceptance in the larger society.
Furthermore, because of language and cultural barriers, our family sometimes felt oppressed by other people’s lack of compassion or understanding. This was particularly true in workplaces and schools, where we sometimes felt undervalued or disrespected due to the disdain for or misunderstanding of our cultural practices. These oppressive encounters led to feelings of discontent, alienation, and unfair treatment due to cultural differences.
In addition, we could have unintentionally contributed to the oppression of others at some point when we reflect on our actions and conduct. Due to cultural insensitivity or ignorance, even with the greatest of intentions, we may have unwittingly fostered prejudice or discomfort towards various ethnic groups. This little realization made us reflect on our behaviors and attitudes to have a more sympathetic and perceptive knowledge of other cultures.
These very influential experiences of oppression have had a significant effect on our collective understanding of the challenges of social dynamics and cultural assimilation. Often, the unpleasant atmosphere induced a strong feeling of unfair treatment, loneliness, and irritability. That gave rise to a yearning for acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion that, in a society that held preconceived notions about our cultural history, sometimes appeared impossible to achieve. Our reflections on our actions and biases were prompted by these interactions as well. We felt obligated to work more to foster empathy and understanding among people from different cultural backgrounds once we realized that our cultural blind spots and misunderstandings could have unintentionally contributed to the oppression of others.
This analysis of the spectrum between privilege and oppression sheds insight into the challenges and possibilities our family faced as they adapted to life in a foreign country. It also draws attention to the challenges of navigating cultural diversity. This reflection improves our comprehension of how societal problems impact our families and highlights the need to cultivate empathy and foster inclusive settings for individuals from diverse ethnic origins.
Thinking about the complexity of power and injustice in my family’s history has been eye-opening. These insights have helped me better understand my family and will significantly alter how I do social work going forward. The study of my family’s past has revealed details about our experience as immigrants, the extent of our Nepali heritage, and how privilege and oppression intersect in our day-to-day existence. It has led to a deeper understanding of the perseverance, cultural values, and educational relevance passed down through the ages.
More significantly, I appreciate the value of inclusion, empathy, and cultural understanding. As we negotiate the rugged terrain of being immigrants in a foreign country, these characteristics have come to define who we are. Acknowledging our own experiences of oppression and maybe inadvertent prejudices against other ethnic groups has made us more accountable and determined to promote empathy and cultural knowledge.
These observations are very relevant to social work practice. It is essential to comprehend the complexities of privilege and oppression in our family and the larger society to serve clients with empathy and effectiveness. It serves as a reminder that each person has a distinct cultural background, set of experiences, and set of difficulties and that I, as a social worker, must be cognizant of these differences.
Understanding the privilege and oppression in my family’s past highlights how crucial cultural sensitivity is to meeting the demands of a varied clientele. It emphasizes how important it is to provide a friendly, inclusive space where customers feel valued, listened to, and understood (Hopf et al., 2021). My own experiences with privilege and oppression allow me to understand and sympathize with the difficulties that people from other backgrounds may encounter.
I feel secure and at ease serving ethnic groups I am familiar with now that I have gained this knowledge. Considering my heritage, this also encompasses the South Asian and Nepali populations. My ability to empathize with the customs, beliefs, and cultural norms of these groups may help me establish rapport and have productive conversations with clients from similar backgrounds.
On the other hand, I know very little about some cultural groups. To have a deeper understanding of the particular requirements and issues these clients face, I would pursue more education and training in these areas. It is critical to understand that achieving cultural competence is a continuous process (Rode et al.,2022). In order to provide more inclusive and considerate services, I am determined to increase my knowledge of and familiarity with various ethnic groups.
In summary, the history of my family has given me important insights into the nuances of privilege and injustice. These realizations have strengthened my resolve to conduct social work with cultural sensitivity, empathy, and inclusion. Even though I am at ease working with ethnic groups I know, I am committed to learning more so that I can assist customers from a variety of backgrounds. As a prospective social worker, this self-reflection and learning process is an essential part of my job, stressing the value of providing a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all clients.
Blossfeld, H. P., & Von Maurice, J. (2019). Education as a lifelong process (pp. 17-33). Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.
Hopf, S. C., Crowe, K., Verdon, S., Blake, H. L., & McLeod, S. (2021). Advancing workplace diversity through the culturally responsive teamwork framework. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 30(5), 1949-1961.
Kumi-Yeboah, A., Dogbey, J., Yuan, G., & Smith, P. (2020). Cultural diversity in online education: An exploration of instructors’ perceptions and challenges. Teachers College Record, 122(7), 1-46.
Nemetz, P. L., & Christensen, S. L. (1996). The challenge of cultural diversity: Harnessing a diversity of views to understand multiculturalism. Academy of management review, 21(2), 434-462.
Rode, J. C., Huang, X., & Schroeder, R. G. (2022). Human resources practices and continuous improvement and learning across cultures. Journal of International Management, 28(4), 100972.
Sagy, O., Kali, Y., Tsaushu, M., & Tal, T. (2018). The culture of learning continuum: Promoting internal values in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 43(3), 416-436.