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Cultural Assimilation

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Written by Ikra Cavusoglu

As the name suggests, cultural assimilation is the process through which individuals of one culture move into another's area and gradually adopt that culture's traits. A different scenario can happen if the side which gets assimilated is the local people. Well, a group of people wouldn't be able to live as a minority if they didn't adapt to the majority, but is that all?

To find an answer, we should check the two main versions of it, which are forced assimilation and voluntary assimilation. When a minority adapts voluntarily to the point it can't be distinguished from the majority, it's voluntary assimilation. There is a concept for it that's often used in American history called "The Melting Pot." It stands for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements “melting together” with a common culture, just like when you take iron and carbon and melt them together in a pot to make a stronger metal. (1) This process is beneficial for the people as they blend in the majority's environment. Forced assimilation, on the other hand, shows aggressive suppression towards the minority, unlike the aimed harmony in full assimilation. In this case, the majority will impose its religion, language, ethnicity, social class, or a mix of these elements on the minority. Institutions, socio facts, including government, business, law, and communication will be entirely controlled by the dominant culture. (2) In 1890, the U.S. government did this when it ended open warfare against Native American tribes. They applied forced assimilation to these defeated people, so they decided to force children out of their cultures into theirs. The goal was to try to make Native Americans "Good Christian citizens." They opened institutions to educate Native children. They had to cut their hair, wear uniforms, and learn English. They also had to do manual labor and pray in English. If they didn't send their children, their families could get punishments, and children could have been taken away at gunpoint. (3)

To conclude, voluntary assimilation is a positive requirement for the minority to fit in the environment of the majority, but it shouldn't be confused with forced assimilation, which creates a dangerously detaining environment for the minority.

  1. Melting pot. ECPS. (2020, December 27). Retrieved January 8, 2023, from

  2. Dominant culture. The Decision Lab. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2023, from

  3. Sapiens. (2022, June 30). Native American children's historic forced assimilation. SAPIENS. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from


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