Cultural Norms and Impact of Language in How to Tame a Wild Tongue

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Throughout the semester, I have been immersed in literature written by writers of different races and ethnicities. Although the plots and characters were diverse, they all searched for self-concept. Humans have an ideal perspective of their own culture identity, this often different than the identity that dominant American culture influences them to have. Trying to find ethnic- identity between the borders of these two often leads to stressful environments and phenomenological experiences in search for where to fit in.

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America is a diverse country, the differences that separates groups does not limit itself to ethnicity, religion, or race, language can also divide groups. English is the predominant language spoken in the United States, however because of multiple cultural and ethinc immigrants, speaking in many different tongues is common among society. This leaves people feeling as if they have to choose a side. In the story ”How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” written by Gloria Anzaldua, explains how she struggles with finding cultural identity in her own culture because of language.

In the beginning of the essay, the wild tongue is the narrator's literal tongue which is uncontrollably moving at the dentist. The narrator then goes on to reference it as a symbol of non-standardized language. Chicano Spanish, which is neither Spanish nor English, is considered to be rejected by both cultures. The narrator believes that language is a form of self-identity, to tame your wild tongue is to suppress and cut out your cultural identity.

Language and dialects are a form of self expression. Patterns in people's voice gives them character. The way one speaks is judged, for example Glorias Spanish side of the family was upset that she did not speak pure to her heritage, revealing her Mexican side. A person's language is a key to being accepted into groups, helping people identify with one another. However, it can also alienate groups.

The past and present miscommunication causes bias to be built around cultures. For many minority groups in America, fitting in can be especially difficult, so more often than not they choose to assimilate into mainstream culture, however this can make an individual feel out of touch with their culture and community. The social environment affects us, we adapt to society we tend to mimic what we’re accustomed to. Different countries and cultures have different concepts, as do different generations. An American Chinese versus an American born Chinaman have individual experiences and external influences that help develop a person's identity.

To prevent these sorts of assimilations I think Americans should be taught about cultural relativism at a young age. Cultural relativism is the idea that you should not judge one's culture based on the principles of another, each culture should be understood with no bias. It’s about understanding a person's beliefs, and practices, not what is right or wrong. If cultural relitisim is not practiced I believe it is easy for racial discrimination to form. These lead to blind injustices.

In the story “Mistaken Identity,” The U.S military misunderstands “Geronimo” as a reference to an individual Native American enemy. However, due to mistaken identity there are multiple warriors known as Geronimo -- Big Pine, Red Clay, Sleet and Wide ledge -- “to whites all apache warriors look the same.”

The American cavalry did not care about war crimes or what was morally correct during the hunt to conquer Geronimo, they only wanted power. They refused to admit when they were wrong and hunted multiple trails to reinforce their power. If the Americans admitted they made a mistake they would be hung themselves. My thoughts on the military in this story is that they blindly followed bias misinformation. To me “Geronimo” symbolizes all Native American people. Cook says he was on the hunt for one man but really Euro-Americans always had a plan to conquer all territories.

In due time, people begin to understand the importance of staying in touch with their native cultural backgrounds. The main problem that can present itself is how does someone do that and stay authentic. Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use' tells a story of family reunion between a mother and her two daughters who are opposites. Maggie, who is traditional and still lives at home and Dee, who is cultivated and coming to visit them both. This story has a few conflicts that arise: acceptance, love, heritage, and identity. For Dee, expressing her cultural identity is putting it on display for others to look at and observe. However, for Mother and Maggie her display items are part of their “everyday use,” being used for purpose and not show. For example the quilt, which is made from clothing scraps and sewn by multiple people, some scraps are from the uniform their great grandfather wore in the civil war. Dee wants to hang them as art, while her family uses them for warmth. Dee also decides to change her name for the oppressors, letting her ignorance blind her in the fact that her grandfather worked against those people in real experiences. All three women are trying to express their heritage.

In today's society there are still cultural norms, but what is normal is an illusion. Ocean Vaugh wrote a novel about lifes briefs moments both physically and psychologically. In the beginning of the novel Little Dog is often embarrested of who he is and how his Vietnamese- American mother acts. However, for Little Dog a transformation happens, for the first time looking in the mirror he sees himself as somebody that can be loved, because he has felt love by someone who knows his familys history and knows the way he looks. Embrassing things about your life, whether it be religon, race, heritage, or gender idenity leads to a road of self idenity.  

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