Assimilation of Second Generation Chinese Immigrants

Assimilation of Second Generation Chinese Immigrants
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Second generation immigrants in America are individuals born or raised in the United States with at least one parent who is foreign. A lot of research has been done on the possibility of assimilation of second generation Chinese immigrants into the American culture. The extent to which second generation Chinese immigrants adopt American culture or retain their ethnic identity has been the subject of numerous researches. There are those scholars who argue that second generation Chinese immigrants are completely influenced by the new culture as they are alienated from their ethnic backgrounds (Lin, p23). Others are of the view that second generation Chinese immigrants will always retain their ethnic identity as there is a continuity of values and traditions between first and second generation immigrants (Min, p90). This paper argues that second generation Chinese immigrants will experience what is called segmented assimilation. The paper argues that second generation Chinese immigrants are not a homogenous group, they differ in the extent to which they adopt or reject the American culture. Therefore, there are different possible paths of assimilation for individual second generation Chinese immigrants. The paper asserts that there are those second generation Chinese immigrants who assimilate seamlessly into the American culture, there are those who hold on to their ethnic identity fully and there are those who adopt parts of the American culture while still preserving the values and traditions of the Chinese community (Alumkal, p67).
There are different factors which influence the path each individual second generation Chinese immigrant is going to take as far as assimilation is concerned. Government policies, the co ethnic makeup of the American society and the level of prejudice in the American society all influence how second generation Chinese immigrants assimilate into the American society. Other determining factors include changes in the economy, location and the place of the immigrant in terms of class.
There are those second generation Chinese immigrants who are completely assimilated into the American culture. Most second generation Chinese immigrants have gone through the American education system, come from middle class families and speak English fluently. This ultimately means that these individuals have the capacity to be adopted into the American economic system without any problems. Such individuals can compete on equal grounds with white Americans as they are more or less equipped with the same capacities and opportunities with white Americans. There are those second generation Chinese immigrants who choose to adopt the American culture completely so they can be more accepted which in the end means that they can gain access to the opportunities that are in the United States. Second generation Chinese Americans were either born or raised in the United States. This means that the only home they know is America. They are likely to be more conscious of the American culture than they are of Chinese culture. It is therefore not a question of whether or not they will adopt the American culture; such individuals know only the American culture most of the time. Second generation Chinese immigrants are not resilient in holding on to their ethnic identity. This is because there is a gap in communication with, support from and identification with their respective families and the general Chinese community. You will find for example some second generation Chinese immigrant children having more white American friends than Chinese American friends. Such children may not feel an affinity towards their Chinese counterparts, they may relate more easily with white Americans and this makes it easier to incorporate and adopt the American culture. Second generation Chinese immigrants as a result of separation from their ethnic ties are more likely to adopt a Eurocentric culture. This in the end reduces their collective consciousness, increases their individualistic tendencies and makes them American.
Another form that segmented assimilation will take is that of complete seal off from adopting the American culture. There are those second generation Chinese immigrants who completely reject the American culture in a bid to preserve their ethnic identity. There are those second generation Chinese immigrants who completely refuse to conform to the ideas and ideals of the American society. Such individuals recognize that they are a minority and the preservation of their ethnic identity is fueled by this fact. There is a continuity of values and traditions between first generation and second generation Chinese immigrants. Values and traditions are reinforced through the family unit. Chinese worldviews are passed on to second generation immigrants through conscious methods designed by first generation immigrants who are skeptical of the American culture. The fact that American culture is in many aspects the complete opposite of Chinese culture makes it to be completely rejected by some second generation Chinese immigrants. For example American culture is more individualistic while Chinese culture emphasizes on the collective. Second generation Chinese immigrants may also feel that their have to be culturally distinct in order to counter their low status and ensure that they get economic advancement. If they remain a distinct minority group for example, the law will recognize them as such and they will more easily be able to achieve economic mobility. In this case, ethnicity becomes an asset which can help in the development of adaptation outcomes. Some first generation Chinese immigrants therefore encourage their children who are second generation immigrants to retain their ethnic identity as a way of fostering economic and academic aspirations as well as increasing their self esteem. Second generation Chinese immigrants may therefore completely refuse to adopt the American culture so they can retain the title of ‘model minority’. Those second generation Chinese immigrants who choose to reject the American culture and preserve their ethnic identity are more likely to be from well off families. They see no need to adopt a different culture from that of their parents as they do not lack in opportunities in spite of their ethnic heritage. Chinese values and traditions as well as language patterns are kept alive in second generation immigrants through interaction with other Chinese in urban communities in America. The fact that there are Chinese organizations, Chinese restaurants and other commercial districts which are Chinese give strength to the Chinese culture making it impossible for some second generation Chinese immigrants to be assimilated into the American culture (Kibria, p156). Such immigrants become closed off from other cultures and live in their own ‘China’ in the United States. Another reason why some second generation Chinese immigrants are not assimilated into the American culture is the view that they are outsiders. In such a case, second generation Chinese immigrants may only be given jobs which are low paying. This ultimately means that their chances for upward mobility in the American society become very low and with it their chances of being accepted or assimilated into the American culture slim too.
There are those second generation Chinese immigrants who adopt parts of the American culture while still preserving the values and traditions of the Chinese community. Despite the fact that there were born or raised in America and despite their achievements in academics and career, some second generation Chinese immigrants strive to preserve their ethnic ties and identity (Min, p234). Some second generation Chinese immigrants adopt the American culture because it is what they need in order to survive in America and because they live in America. However, they at the same time keep elements of their ethnic identity as a way of maintaining contact with their origins. Such immigrants recognize that they are Chinese Americans, that they represent two cultures. For example some second generation Chinese Americans may adopt the liberal religious beliefs of white evangelicals while using churches as way of maintaining and strengthening ties with their Chinese counterparts. Such second generation immigrants for speak both English and Chinese and keep both white and Chinese friends among other behaviors which indicate a dualism. For those who are not proficient in Chinese, they maintain emotional attachments to their cultural identities and heritage. This group goes through the American education system and get into the American economy with ease but they develop a sensitivity to issues that deal with race and ethnicity. Such individuals are more intolerant to racial discrimination, are very aware of their minority status and this motivates them to work hard in order to be successful (Alumkal, p23). In order to prove racial stereotyping wrong, they strive to be successful and this in the end means adopting those American cultures that make it possible for social mobility to occur. Research has shown that college graduation rates are highest among Chinese second generation immigrants. They for example use the concept of ‘family honor’ prevalent in the Chinese culture to motivate then to go through the American education system successfully. Such immigrants combine the best of the two worlds to come up with a ‘success recipe’. The second generation Chinese immigrants under this form of segmented assimilation do not completely give up their ethnic identity; they maintain their cultural awareness while still blending into the American culture.
The role of the individual in determining their own values is to be emphasized. It is impossible therefore to assert that all second generation Chinese immigrants either get assimilated into the American culture or maintain their cultural identity. What can be stated is that second generation Chinese immigrants just like any other group of people are endowed with individual choices. The extent to which they adopt or reject the American culture therefore differs from individual to individual. The elements of the Chinese or American culture that are either adopted or rejected also differ from individual to individual. The location of second generation Chinese immigrants in the American society is different for every one of them. How the individual negotiates his location in relation to his personal behavior and identity determines the extent of his assimilation into the American way of life.
Works Cited
I Am My Own Person’: a Comparison of Value Changes between First and Second Generation Chinese American Characters in Three Novels by Chinese American Writers. , n.d.. Internet resource.
Min, Pyong G. The Second Generation: Ethnic Identity Among Asian Americans. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2002. Print.
Alumkal, Antony W. Asian American Evangelical Churches: Race, Ethnicity, and Assimilation in the Second Generation. New York: LFB Scholarly Pub. LLC, 2003. Internet resource.
Lin, Ko-Han C. The Impact of Acculturation and Generation Status on the Degree of Resilience in Chinese American Adults. , 2010. Print.
Mollenkopf, John, Philip Kasinitz, and Mary Waters. Immigrant Second Generation in Metropolitan New York. , 2011. Internet resource.
Kibria, Nazli. Becoming Asian American: Second-generation Chinese and Korean American Identities. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. Print.
Jen, Gish. Typical American. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/S. Lawrence, 1991. Print.

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