By Akifa Khattak
“Miss, please step to the side for a random security check. ”
“Is there a problem, sir? Is it because of the way I am dressed, or is it because of my religion?”
“It is just the standard procedure. Please follow me”.
Three hours later… Flight missed, again.
“I have lived my whole life in America. I am an American. However, I do not look like the typical American. Why does society still treat me like an outsider? Funny thing is, when I go visit my family’s native country, I am the outsider. Physically I look the same, but mentally my views are different. Why? I don’t understand who I am. Where do I belong? ”
We live in a world where society requires people to maintain a fast-paced lifestyle and to become accustomed to desensitizing the struggles of any entity remotely different from the norm. Now more than ever before, America is a “melting pot” of cultures as a result of the rapid rise of globalization. This has brought rise to a generation of children that are hybrids of their ethnic heritage and the culture that surrounds them. This article is written to help readers understand the unique perspective of a new generation of hybrid children.
The scenario above shows a Muslim adolescent who has encountered a typical situation that causes hybrid children to re-evaluate their identities. This young lady grew up immersing herself in sports, friendships, extracurricular activities, and her community. However, the differences between her and her American friends are numerous and include her faith, her culture, and her family life.
For example, the girl from the scenario above drives back from a soccer game with a group of friends, discussing music and the latest fashions. However, as soon as she opens the door to her house, she enters an environment with a radically different way of life. The home is filled with the smell of ethnic food, her grandfather is watching a foreign channel on the television, her mother’s music plays is in a different language, and most importantly, the moral values and standards within the household are derived from foreign traditions.
These subconscious changes in environment affect the development of hybrid children. In most situations, these hybrid children are able to adapt to the surrounding environment, whether it is at a religious outing with the family or at a southern BBQ after the big game. However, there are deep-rooted issues that these children encounter. Society points them in one direction, but their family traditions point them in another. The children tend to pick and choose the most appropriate values that mesh best with their current lifestyle. Problems arise when the hybrids feel confused, not fully belonging to any one culture. The family will condemn the child for becoming “too Americanized,” which means that the family thinks the child is embracing her surrounding culture too much while disregarding her traditional culture. For example, the hybrid’s view on same-sex marriage or interracial marriage may not align with their traditional culture’s view. Hybrids have to face their families, friends, and other society members who are continuously trying to alter their views.
When these hybrids visit their native country, they may feel like tourists because they do not think, act, or believe all of the same things that the locals do. Their overall demeanor may be the same, but they have slightly different personal preferences and views of the world because of the environment in which they were raised. The hybrid is constantly trying to find a group with which they can fully identify. Though it is becoming more common to see hybrid children, it is still difficult for them to feel fully accepted in any culture.
As the scenario above shows, the Middle Eastern girl was caught in a situation where her traditional values were not accepted in her surrounding environment. The same environment she most relates to ostracized her, making her feel neglected by both cultures. These situations trigger insecurities – insecurities about the acceptance of one’s true self.
The only way these hybrids are able to come to terms with their cultural identity crisis is by accepting all the different cultures they are a part of and utilizing each of them in different scenarios to better connect all types of people. These hybrids are skilled with being able to understand many different cultures and religions, which only benefits their self-growth in the future. If these hybrids are able to understand themselves, then they can potentially play a critical role in bridging gaps between different cultures. By unifying different groups and prompting them to look at multiple perspectives on different topics, hybrids can deeply impact the same society that once questioned their value as human beings.