My wife and I were talking to a new friend of ours the other day about her ethnic background because we couldn’t place her accent. It turns out she is Assyrian, which makes her the first Assyrian we have met. We love such interactions and friendships, getting to know people from all corners of the globe, again one of the benefits of living in a place like Los Angeles. Of course, that gave us the opportunity to get into her culture and background and for us to get an education about a community that we were wholly unfamiliar with. It was very enlightening.
One of the things we learned though about the expectations of her family and culture is the emphasis and expectation on her to marry someone that is also Assyrian. This expectation grew out of the small size of their community and not wanting to see the culture disappear and of course, also a result of a pride in their ethnicity and culture. Which reminded me, we have to be careful in that while having a pride in one’s culture is important for our self-esteem, there is also a point where that pride crosses over into ethnic bias against others. The focus on marrying within one’s culture for example, is not far removed from looking down on someone within that culture who chooses not to. Much like Black Power and White Power movements are not far removed from holding grudges against the “other” group.
Our new friend and her culture are quite interesting. We hope to learn much more about this ancient culture and the people who still carry on the traditions today. And obviously, we are not making a negative comment on her or her expected choices, because it is possible she and her family have been able to figure out how not to cross over that line separating pride from prejudice. I hope we learn that they have indeed done that. And whether they have or not, we, once again, are being enriched by broadening our knowledge of the world and our circle of friends.