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I am going to play to stereotype and quote Bruce Lee:

Knowledge in martial arts actually means self-knowledge… ultimately, martial arts means honestly expressing yourself. Now, it is very difficult to do. It has always been very easy for me to put on a show and be cocky, and be flooded with a cocky feeling and feel pretty cool and all that. I can make all kinds of phoney things. Blinded by it. Or I can show some really fancy movement. But to experience oneself honestly, not lying to oneself, and to express myself honestly, now that is very hard to do.

If you replace the words “martial arts” with “heritage” or “culture” you could pretty much sum up how I feel about myself as an individual in ethnic solidarity with others of Chinese descent.

It’s too easy to hate Arizona. From Senator Gray’s indulgence in Klu Klux Klan tweets to the United Nations’ criticism of its anti-immigrant law, Arizona has certainly worked hard in recent months to earn public ire. With its latest law, Arizona is banning “ethnic studies” classes with the belief they “advocate ethnic solidarity” and “are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.” The LL2 blog provides a readable analysis of the wording without the anger and the jargon.

In lieu of recent months, I  am finding it hard not to believe Arizona’s new law – Chicken Little or not – is just “ethnic cleansing” instead of an effort to teach school children “to treat and value each other as individuals.”

I’m a big believer individualism – Child of the 80s – WLIR – “Dare to be different.” But I am also a big believer in cultural heritage and personal histories. I am a fan of ethnic studies programs. In fact, I believe they should be started earlier – in elementary school when cognition moves from the concrete “me-centric” world to the more abstract “we” world.

Providing ethnic studies programs earlier assists in the construction of a firm social identity and personal foundation – Social identity being the retaining of self under fierce social/peer pressures – Personal foundation being a comfort level with yourself and your decisions under those same circumstances.

I believe it is important to be able to present yourself as an individual in ethnic solidarity – meaning finding comfort among those who share the same ethnic history while maintaining those traits and characters that make you uniquely you. This is a social skill. It is taught by family and school (formally and informally). It is behavior that is modeled and then practiced. It does not occur naturally.

Becoming an individual in ethnic solidarity is about expressing yourself honestly. It is not about reacting naturally. There is a difference.

It is natural to feel resentment towards the perceived ills brought on by a cultural majority on an ethnic minority. It is natural that the cultural majority blame an ethnic minority for the social stresses of change. However, it is not honest. Honesty would reveal the conflicts are the result of material pressures rather than anything brought on by ethnic association.

Assimilation occurs. It’s survival instinct. Dominant culture absorbs favorable aspects of new culture to form a new shared paradigm. New culture adjusts to dominant culture to enjoy the benefits it has to offer. This happens with all immigrant groups – from the Irish on up to the Chinese – and onward now to the Mexicans. The hope is with each successive immigrant group we become better equipped to cope with the growing pains.

I am steadfast in my belief that the Arizona law is wrong. However, thinking honestly about it, the ban has inspired me to consider aspects of my life that I most often take for granted. Becoming an individual in ethnic solidarity is important – And is something that needs to be taught – But it is not something that can be taught only in the classroom. It is something that should be taught through home and community as well.

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