These two words have starkly different meanings. The differences are important. The following example may help us focus on a major problem confronting our country; our divided society.
Our country has a burgeoning number of Spanish speaking people who have arrived from south of our border. Our citizens hold two points of view regarding these new arrivals. Some do not approve of their being here. Others welcome them.
Accommodate is defined as “contain or hold”. Assimilate means to “absorb, understand or take on board”.
A common question asked by those who go no further than accommodation goes like this. “Why don’t those people learn to speak English?” On the other hand, assimilators ask “What can I do to help these new arrivals learn English.”
Many years ago our country made a critically important decision regarding our new arrivals. As has often been true in our history, we took the easy and expedient path. We decided to accommodate the use of the Spanish language. On cable television, simply hit a tab to hear a program broadcast in Spanish. Government publications and commercial product labels are now printed in Spanish. This decision separated and isolated Spanish language speakers. To revisit the definitions, the decision “contained and held’ them but has failed then and since to “absorb, understand and take them on board.”
The damage done to our unity will take generations to remedy. Hard work and expense will be required. There are those who may not like the presence of Spanish language speakers in this country. However, they are here to stay and ultimately must be assimilated.
The assimilators in our society are acting aggressively by teaching newcomers to speak and read English, gain certificates of in high school equivalency, and to pass citizen tests. We should thank the assimilators for helping to heal the damage done by segregation through accommodation.