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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

January 22, 2006

Written by C.N.

Growing Up Asian American

Time Magazine has an article that summarizes many of the trials and tribulations young Asian Americans experience as they grow up Asian in America. These common experiences that many of them share include growing up in predominantly- or all-White neighborhoods and schools, enduring racial taunts from classmates, rejecting their Asian roots and culture so that they can fit into their surroundings, then reacquiring their Asian identity during college, and then forging a new Asian American identity that incorporates elements from both cultures:

Jack Tchen, director of Asian/Pacific/American Studies at N.Y.U., says these second-generation immigrants are beginning to find a middle ground and to “define a new modern form of Asian modernity, not necessarily the same as American modernity.” That is what sociologists call identity building, and for the second generation, it is based not on a common ethnicity, faith or language (except English) but on shared experience.

Which is what the six around the New York City table are discovering. For nearly three hours, they tell stories about their families, their work, their heartaches, their joys. They discuss their Asian identities and American habits. And they confess how hard it has been to walk an often lonely path. . . .

The talk about themselves provides some insights about their parents too. Rob Ragasa, 31, a Filipino-American high school teacher raised in New Jersey, reflects on his parents. “They had to come here and struggle. They had to be the first,” he says, then pauses for a moment. “Maybe we are like our parents,” he adds finally. “We are going to be pioneers too.”

It almost seems like a rite of passage to experience this form of assimilation by Asian Americans — rejection, rediscovery, then rebuilding. I’ve gone through it, almost all of my Asian American colleagues have gone through it, and many of my Asian American students are currently going through it.

It just goes to show that even though a young Asian American in this situation may feel that s/he is alone and isolated, s/he is actually going through what thousands, even millions of others have already gone through. Perhaps it can be a source of comfort to know that a seemingly personal process such as assimilation is also quite communal.

A perfect example of sociology in action, in fact.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Growing Up Asian American" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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