TheCultural Identities of Chinese American Adolescents
Chinese-American adolescents face a lot of challenges in the UnitedStates, as well as in mainland China. The shared cultural heritagesfrom the two different nations possess difficulty in identifyingone’s cultural standing. The adolescents are the most affected asthe reality strikes them at this age. Notably, most Chinese-Americangrown-ups and parents do not exhibit the cultural dilemma as theyoungsters. The adolescent group’s challenge is that they areneither accepted by the American society, nor by their Chinesecounterparts who live in China. As a result, they often feelexperience feelings of seclusion and rejection. However, theself-concept of Chinese-Americans begun to create a middle ground asto where the two different cultures can meet and therefore fit thecircumstances of the adolescents at a social dilemma. Somepropositions have been made in an effort of shaping the culturalidentities of these adolescents. Together, they form a multi-facetedapproach which includes the American community in which they live, aswell as teachings and support at the family level. Nevertheless, itis the way these Chinese teenagers deal with the two cultures that isattention-grabbing. Therefore, the Chinese-American adolescents faceprofound challenges in American society which puts them in an anxiousposition over their cultural identity, leading them to questionwhether they truly fit into the American identity.
One of the problems Chinese-American adolescents face is acceptancein either of the cultures. The teenagers face a general opinion thatthey will never become Americans even though they were born and bredin America. Tse and Johndro assert that the serious dilemma is thatthe Chinese-Americans are inclined more to their Chinese identitythan an American one (humanities.asu.edu). The experiences haverevealed to be confusing to many other teenagers who perceived thetreatment as segregation and racism from their American counterparts(Zhou 1). However, the American community could always deny thetreatment and refer racism as a black and white affair. Consequently,Tse and Johndro propose comparative cultural studies in learninginstitutions which will aid in bridging the inadequate information ondifferent ethnicities and languages of the world. According to theduo, the lack of conversations and interactions have caused all theproblems related to social acceptance from other ethnic groups(humanities.asu.edu).
Chines-Americans and the Asian-Americans, in general, have decided torefer themselves as neither Chinese nor American. Lack of a strongethnic standing in either of the two cultures has forced adolescentsto renounce both cultures. In her Asian-American Awakening review,Zhou calls out for other Asian-Americans who still cling onto theirAsian or American culture to come out and refer themselves asAsian-Americans. However, Tse and Johndro explain a contradictingexperience back in China where the Chinese-Americans are consideredas either Chinese or America, and not both (humanities.asu.edu).According to the Chinese people, a Chinese looking person cannot alsobe an American. On the other hand, some Chinese-Americans also argueabout how American they feel which makes them end up furthering analready heated up argument. Therefore, professions and groups whichinteract with Chinese-Americans should transact with utmostsensitivity to cultural differences and acceptance that faces theadolescents (Van Campen & Russell 4). The conservative treatmentis meant to dilute all feelings of tension and confusion thatChinese-American adolescents experience.
Zhou narrates an experience after visiting her extended family inChina. Zhou was disappointed after relatives could easily identifyher as a non-local and went ahead to joke about her American accentwhile speaking Chinese. Consequently, she decided to lose thatidentity because it was not part of her (Zhou 3). Furthermore, shewent ahead and stopped speaking Chinese as a way of erasingembarrassing moments during her Asian visit. Similarly, Zhou wentahead and started avoiding other Chinese immigrants with a fear thatthey would embarrass her further. All these efforts show anindividual who is striving to save face amidst a complex dilemma. Thefear of being called “different” has made many otherChinese-Americans to dissociate themselves with the ethnic group thatmistreats them. To identify with the American identity which standsfor independent freedom, beliefs, and shared values, theChinese-American adolescents try as much as they can to cut off theirAsian cultural links. Xu also reports how his adolescent experiencesmade him contemplate getting rid of his cultural heritage(nytimes.com). According to Xu, association to the Chinese culturecreated a self-hatred as it made him look different among peers(nytimes.com). However, he proposes a way of shaping culturalidentity through art. Visiting the first Chinese-Americansettlements, and taking photographs made him understand the culturalposition and contributions that Chinese-Americans made during theearly years in modern America. Such experiences are useful inensuring Chinese- American adolescents accept themselves and thatthey also form part of the American story.
The realization that one is ethnically Asian but culturally Americancan sometimes cause confusion. The majority of Chinese-Americans tryto squeeze in part of the Chinese culture through copying andlearning. However, most of those born and bred in the United Statescannot fully become culturally Chinese because they did not grow inthe culture (Zhou 3). Most of them try to watch Asian films, havingAsian friends, and listening to Asian music, all to identify withtheir ethical culture. However, the balance between being an Americanand at the same time a Chinese is not always correctly established.Therefore, most adolescents try to accommodate the Chinese valuesthat they can and dispose-off those they cannot maintain. During suchtimes, the family has a significant role in which it needs to play.The role of supporting and regulating the adolescents can salvagesome of the difficult feelings they deal with daily (Van Campen andRussell 2). The support can aid in instilling some Chinese valuesthat are critical for their understanding of their ethnicity.Confucian philosophies such as respect for authority and theimportance of education are imperative in the Chinese culture and canbe passed down through the family (Van Campen and Russell 2).
In conclusion, the Chinese-American adolescents face a lot ofdifficulty regarding their cultural identity. They face a culturaldilemma and confusion as to who they truly are. While some perceivethemselves as Americans, some see themselves as Chinese teenagers inAmerica. Furthermore, the society enhances the cultural identitydilemma among the adolescents. However, proposals such as havingcomparative studies in schools and universities could support abetter understanding of different cultures that exist within theAmerican community. Similarly, learning about the historical placeand contributions of the first Chinese people in America could alsohelp Chinese-American adolescents acknowledge their position withinthe American society. Experiencing the complete freedom to expressone`s culture is the best experience. At this point, it is clear thatthe Chinese-American adolescents have no reason to show anxiety abouttheir position in America but rather, form part of the Americanidentity.
Tse,Melissa, and Patrick Johndro. “The Twists and Turns of theChinese-American Identity.”Humanities.aus.eud.
VanCampen, K. S., and S. T. Russell. "Culturaldifferences in parenting practices: What Asian American families canteach us."ResearchLink2.1. 2010.
Xu,An Rong. "Embracing My Chinese-American Identity." TheNew York Times. TheNew York Times, 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
Zhou,Connie. “The Asian-American Awakening: that moment when you realizeyou’re not white.” 2013.