The Deep Wrinkle Remains of Asian-American in the United States
Asians make up close to 8% of today’s American population. The numbers are growing and are expected to hit 10% by 2050 (so I hear). They have been notoriously known for strict educational habits in their household — ultimately putting their children in many of the top universities in America, because they never got to enjoy the college lifestyle themselves so they wanted us to at least enjoy and be successful.
The Asian immigration began in the early 1900s, started by the Chinese and Japanese to the west coast. Many came to work on agricultural farms as hard-labor workers in need of more hands. This continued until the 70s when more people came but with a bit more education in their own countries and the ability to understand the English language so they began starting small family-owned businesses such as restaurants, groceries, gas stations, laundromats, and liquor stores. Businesses they can own with a small amount of investment/loans and also don’t require a top technical skillset. Their diligence and hard work were good enough to succeed and many able to collect fortunes in America. We call them 1st generation. This 1st generation of immigrants didn’t want their children to suffer what they had to go through; long hours at the office/business, hard labor, and low satisfaction other than earning money. They wanted their kids to succeed in banking, technology, medicine, and legal fields where occupational titles show how hard you worked and studied in school. It’s the ultimate prize and pride for the 1st generation parents.
Yes, racism happened. The 1992 Los Angeles Riot is the most well-known incident of racial tension between Asian Americans and others. Many Asian-Americans dealt with harsh language and racial slurs back in the 80s and 90s. I never dealt with it personally in the early 2000s, but I lived in a fairly nicer and calmer part of Northeast US. Many 2nd generations (born from 1975 to 1990) have dealt with parental pressure to succeed in school and excel academically to get into top universities and many did. The number of Asian Americans in Ivy League schools got larger and larger and they had to enforce the percentage of Asian-Americans to balance the diversity in those schools. They couldn’t continue to accept Asian Americans simply because they had top scores, they were forced to even out other races to meet the diversity.
Even with today’s thin-line racial tension between many different ethnic groups, whether it be White, Black, Hispanic, or Asians, people seem to have more anger and hate in themselves. Perhaps the difficult economy, unfairness in our society, or whatever it may be, we seem to see many more racial tensions and riots now than 15 years ago. It’s saddening. I blame Donald Trump.
As a 2nd generation Asian-American, we’re very thankful for our parents. They picked nicer and quality neighborhoods even though they may be pricey to live in because they wanted us to be surrounded by nice people. I never got into fights because kids shouted a racial slur at me. Our parents did that for us. Many of my peers share the same feeling as we know how hard they worked — even during weekends to earn more financially to keep us in high standards. They wanted us to have a better and brighter future through top universities and higher education opportunities. They wanted us to become white-collar employees.
With many top engineers, doctors, and lawyers being Asian American in today’s job markets, I think our parents succeeded in doing their missions — training us to do well academically so we don’t take their batons with small businesses. They wanted us to have better lives both financially and emotionally. My parents and their friends talk about how they didn’t have time to spend with their kids simply because they were putting 70 hours at their jobs and dead tired when they were home to do anything else.
All of us are much smarter now, we have master's degrees, law degrees, and Ph.D. All of us speak English like native speakers (I do not). We have the knowledge to excel in the most difficult and complex career fields (I do not) — and still get cheers from our 70+ aged parents. They still run their businesses, insisting they’re still young and have the juice to continue working. To me, they continue to work simply because that is the only thing they know how to do and makes them get up in the mornings. I’ve seen my parents (still in their early 60s, so they are young) come home at 8 and simply watch whatever K-drama they paused the night before. It’s how they decompress and watch their grandchildren's videos we sent them 82nd times.
It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking. We love seeing our parents seemingly still healthy physically and mentally and enjoying their free time. But also heartbreaking because they didn’t get to enjoy the beautiful and amazingness the United States offers. They do not move. They are still old junk they brought from China, Korea, Vietnam, or their hometowns. My mother still has a mug she received from a local bank where she opened her checking accounts in 1983. I offered her a Starbucks mug, and she displays it in the n kitchen cabinet but doesn’t drink out of it.
I’m sure your story is much similar to mine. We came to the United States in the late 90s, so we joined the American party late, but the core remains. Our parents suffered so we can enjoy (much like Jesus Christ…what?)