The resistance of an Algerian in the USA against cultural assimilation

Nassibah Bedreddine is a young Algerian who studies in Athens Drive Magnet High School of North Carolina. Established in the United States since the age of four, he is visiting his father’s old neighborhood, Astoria, for the first time this summer. The Islamic culture that leaves its mark on this part of New York reason for Nasibah to feel homesick.

worry Algeria and the land of his fathers, Kabyliahe recounted in an article published on the website of North Carolina Public Radio (WUNC 91.5) the struggle of his family and himself against cultural assimilation. A concept that is desired remove a person’s identity to be clothed by others who are not his. Here is his story…

(i) Translated from English from:


This summer I visited New York for the first time. A former resident of the Big Apple, my father was my designated tour guide.

He immigrated from Algeria to the United States in 1997, when he was just 19 years old. New York was the first place he lived before settling in North Carolina.

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My favorite part of the trip was getting to know his old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens… However, while wandering the streets of the neighborhood, I found myself struggling with a problem that had been bothering me for a long time: homesick for the town.

Astoria, a district of New York rich in Algerian and Islamic culture.

The Muslim, and therefore Algerian, culture that perseveres in Astoria is a culture I’ve been missing since I returned to the United States, at the age of 4.

I miss him… So much.

Culture shock…

I remember when I lived in Algiers and Kabylia. In Kabylia live my people, the Amazighs, the “free people”. I remember having spoken the darja… My brother too, he remembers it. The loss of this language changed for both of us a kind of alienation from our homeland.

Going from the mountains of Algeria to the coastal plains of North Carolina was a huge culture shock for my siblings. We traded couscous for cornbread, herbal tea for sweet tea, darja for English and hijab for bullying.

old photo of a Kabyle village

Nassibah Beddredine’s father’s native village in Kabylia (Algeria).

When we arrived in the United States, I had a buffer year before starting kindergarten. I used this time to familiarize myself with a culture that was foreign to me. My brother is not that luxurious. It was pushed directly into American schools. He spoke broken English with an accent. Her hijab makes her even more visible. In fourth grade, bullies chased him on the playground and pushed him off the platform. He broke his wrist.

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We were forced to favor American culture over the Algerian culture in which we grew up. Those around us, both ourselves and our teachers, tried to make us “good” Muslims. Muslim women are willing to hide the parts of themselves that scare them. However, we are not afraid. They are ignorant.

Then I began to realize that cultural assimilation, far from being a natural step in the integration process, – is a survival mechanism. This obligation to socialize with Western culture is not, however, a new reality within my family.

The battle for identity…

My grandfather grew up during the colonization period. Under French rule, the indigenous population of my country was removed from their lands, ghettoized and forced to renounce their religion in order to obtain French citizenship…

The French implemented what they called the “Constantine Plan”. They hoped that by developing Algeria’s infrastructure, they would be able to justify their occupation of the country. Part of this plan is to teach Algerian children French instead of their mother tongue, willingly or unwillingly…

Ahmed Bedreddine

Chahid Ahmed Bedreddine, Hassibah’s grandfather who died in 1959 during the National Liberation War.

Even after the independence of Algeria in [1962], my family’s ancestral language and culture remained under threat. Ethnic tensions grew between the Berbers and the country’s Arab majority. And many laws were put in place to prevent the use of Tamazight. As a Kabyle-Berber, my father was forced to abandon the language he grew up with.

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He said: “In the 1970s, I remember when I was very young, when I was talking to my mother on the bus, she said to me: ‘Quiet… In silence. Try not to speak Berber”. Because you know, people will look at you like, “Why do you speak Berber?” »

The spirit of resistance…

During the revolution, my grandparents resisted French attempts at cultural assimilation. They sent this spirit to my father after the revolution. And he planted it in me.

He explained: “Am I asking you to assimilate and give up your identity to survive here? Definitely not. I urge you instead to take the opposite path. I have been repeating this to you since your tender youth. You are different. If you become like them or if they force you into the mold they made you, you are nothing. From this moment on, they have control. »

Nassibah Bedreddine

Nassibah Bedreddine now aspires to pursue a career as an inquisitive journalist.

I now know that cultural assimilation does not happen by accident. It is a process encouraged by individuals and institutions, by playground bullies and settler colonialism. A process my family has been fighting for over three generations.

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If our fight seems to be hereditary, so is the spirit of this fight. It is a spirit that I wish to keep alive today.

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