It is vivid that Chinese-American is one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in America today (Gustaitis, p. 7). A visit to the United States of America reveals heavy presence of Chinese-Americans. Most of these immigrants originated from mainland China while others found their way from countries like Taiwan and Chinese neighbors. They had their own successes as well as challenges. It is against this backdrop that this paper presents an argument that Chinese- Americans are neither Chinese nor Americans. The latter can be attributed to the fact that those who live in America today undergo myriad of problems contrary to Native Americans.
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To start with, it is crucial to mention that the main problem Chinese-Americans are facing is self identification. They do not know their identity due to desire to be Chinese and Americans at the same time. As a matter of fact, they have already gone through process called dual personality. Indeed, this has posed great challenge to them. Worse still, their yellowish complexion which is similar to other Chinese has also brought a lot of confusion. Additionally, the mainstream culture of Americans has transformed both intrinsic personality and socio-cultural norms of many children born in America.
The notion of double personality has already influenced authority of language acquisition and command. As a result, they are non-native American speakers and therefore do not have full command of English. They feel that they are more of foreigners than native speakers. The other problem is the notion that they are born in America and have little command of Chinese language. What a contrast! They cannot claim English or Chinese as native languages. As such, they are tied in between this contrast. This notion has created a problem in their communication and became hard for them to become true Chinese or Americans. It has also become difficult to overcome this barrier when interacting.
Another emergent issue that they have suffered as a result of double personality is prejudice and discrimination from American native speakers (Behnke, p. 5). These kinds of treatment have forced them to work hard to be identified as Americans. They do not realize that there was practice of racism in this country. A good example of such prejudice is how they were treated while working in gold mines. They used to say that they were supposed to stay together and keep away from white miners in order to avoid being prey to bandits (Hunsicker, p. 12). They tried to avoid such treatment although Americans would not see them as native citizens.
It is clear that quite a number of Chinese-Americans would not want to use the name Chinese. In most cases, they tried to avoid it in communication. They wanted to make use of the word American as the identification. This applied to many children born in America. One of the reasons is the argument as being born in America not China. This brings contradiction because many Native Americans would not accept them as real Americans though born in America. The condition created problems between themselves and Americans.
On the other hand, they faced the challenge of rejection from native Chinese people. The latter would not accept them as real Chinese because they were not born in China. They see them separated from Chinese neighborhood because of distance and citizenship. It is without any doubt that they are different both in deed and mental perceptions. They do not really practice what Chinese in China do and belief. It seems that most of them have forgotten the fundamental principles practiced in China for many centuries. Hence, their long stay in America had detached them from their people.
It is interesting to note that as one studies their writings and literature, the taste of American society dominated the mind. They would prefer to have American culture than that of their native people. Their history in America proves that they are ignorant of racial discrimination. In fact, their strong desire to be identified as true Americans has led them to practice what Frank Chin termed as ‘Racist Love’. Although they are born by Chinese parents, mental development and life is based on American culture. This usually influences their thinking as Chinese living in America.
The strongest point of argument as articulated above is indeed a good prompt to question their real identity. In real sense, they are Chinese born and living in America. There is no great deal in arguing about this identity. However, contradictions are evident when one attempts to scrutinize their identity in terms of mentality and choice of lifestyle. Though they are not real Chinese in terms of birth and development, they are Chinese by blood.
On a final note, it is important to point out that although they face these contradictions, they benefit much while living in America. This group has the privilege of being citizens in a foreign land. Undoubtedly, the latter scenario may offer sufficient reason why they are referred to as Chinese-Americans.
- Behnke, Alison. Chinese in America. Minneapolis: Lerner Publication Company, 2005.
- Gustaitis, Joseph. Chinese Americans. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010.
- Hunsicker, Kelley. Chinese Immigrants in America: An Interactive History Adventure. Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2008.