America is known as a nation of immigrants. Its most recognizable statue says as much: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”
The American Dream
The American Dream was not just for American born. It was for everyone. All you had to do was make the voyage and anything was possible. In many way’s the greatest and most told “American Dream” stories from the 19th and early 20th century were ones of immigrants from Germany or Bulgaria or Serbia who came from an indistinct village from dirt-poor origins (from somewhere in Europe), and somehow came to this ‘foreign’ land and through grit and determination became billionaires or world-changing inventors.
Millions of immigrants followed, but not all realized the dream they sought. Untold is that many of these immigrants weren’t about escaping a life of poverty; many came from middle-class families and could at least afford sustenance and basic living. But they were pulled by the dream, to be anything, to pursue career paths not possible back home — in other words, they moved for themselves. Not necessarily out of dire need, which is often claimed. Certainly this is more true more recent in history; but especially true in the last 50 years. And most Asian immigration was, since it followed the 1965 Immigration Act that widened non-white immigration to the US.
Assimilation is for Whites, not NonWhites
The story of white immigration to the US is an interesting thing. To the extent that a Scot migrated to the US but didn’t become the next Andrew Carnegie, he at least found common ways, common people, differences to be sure, but none that suggested he wasn’t anything but a fellow traveler on his way to a better life. After some assimilation, at least on surface, he was often indistinguishable from the rest. On conversation, his accent and other peculiarities would stand out but end of the day, he was “one of them” and he was trying to make it, they could empathize with his journey, and wish him the best. Note- he was not perceived as a Mexican freeloader, and Indian or Chinese opportunist or robot, or a Salvadorean drug smuggler (ok, i made the last one up).
Sometimes people reminisce at the ‘differences’ of the German compared to others; and yet these differences amongst Euros pale compared to those between them and other races. If anything the hay made of the ‘German’ or ‘Italian-American’ suggests how UNUSUAL it is for different kinds of people to live amongst one another; you can only imagine the unpleasantness and discomfort that is felt by whites towards us, which they must suppress due to political correctness but is nevertheless felt at a visceral level.
Importantly, the white immigrant’s children would be as American as the native’s children. His children would NOT be perceived as the eternal immigrant. His children would not be treated like zoo animals, or irrelevant carbon-copies. His children that came young or especially if born here would ENJOY all the social benefits that came from being a normal white American. Dating, friends, identification with portrayals in the mass culture, these would all come. And so in moving, he did not simply for his own benefit, condemn his children to a endless-treadmill in pursuit of belonging and meeting basic psychological needs. This is a KEY benefit that does not apply to nonwhites coming here but somehow this did not make the memo and is repeatedly overlooked by millions of Asians who immigrate to the US.
Somehow the memo of the “American Dream” from all the Scottish and German and Irish immigrant success stories did not get delivered with the right caveats to the non-white people of the world who were on the outside looking, in. They heard about the money. About the opportunities. About “Ah-Mehr-eee-ka”. But they assumed (and this is an assumption that has harmed the lives of million innocent children who never should be subject to these narrow-minded decisions in the future), that they and their children would be treated just like the white immigrants- be seen with empathy and care and common interest and concern just like them.
For the immigrant adults themselves, they were already through their hormones phase, they already had a partner, they already had friends growing up, they already has their psyches cemented by having a sense of belonging growing up with people like them, they never had to second-guess themselves all day long trying to understand the invisible rules of a culture that differed from their home environment – the kind that creates neuroses and anxieties that forever must be quelled by a brave facade. They never at a young age had to choose between slavish conformity and willful subservience to the locals versus being honest to themselves. They had their issues to be sure; but not these ones. Not ones the human mind is ill equipped to contend with because instances of people growing up being “others” amidst a hostile/indifferent population with differences in something so tribal as race never really happened in history.
In other words, the adult immigrants had the upbringing children should have, allowed to develop confidence in a natural environment, before finally addressing the only other thing they needed: financial success. Too bad, their kids did not have such circumstances. And too bad these non-white immigrants thought too little about what their choices would mean for those who came next. (It is childhood where these things matter most; adults of all races and nationalities are used to dealing with fewer social acquaintances, romance, etc.)
My manager is Greek. The reason I point that out is that he moved here about a year ago. He is already more American than I will ever be, even though I was born here . He’s been here one year, I’ve been here decades, born and raised. Yet we walk into a room, and inevitably the questions people ask and comments they make assume he is familiar with Americans bands and that I am not, etc. There is a familiarity others express to him that they may only do so with me after enough time together. He benefits from the in-group bias and I do not, when shit hits the fan, and people instinctively band together by race- guess who has the protection of the majority? It suggests the race of the immigrant strongly impacts their life story in America. Not just for the immigrant, but their family.
The Narrow-Mindedness of the As-Am Immigrant & Ways He Meets His Social Needs
The non-white immigrant today clings to his countrymen, also who find themselves ‘foreigners’ in America, and they bond instantly for natural reasons. They find their similarity comforting in the foreign environment. In contrast, their children are driven by social forces to avoid one another (as people of perceived low status are wont to do), to subtle actions of self-hatred, to be divided by the very life strategy they have taken to deal with whites and groups (ie: conform or not); they do not find even the same social circle comfort as the first-gen immigrant does.
Again, the first-gen immigrant’s conditions are better than his son’s — no matter what his claimed self-sacrifice was for immigrating. Of course the immigrant adults give something up; they will miss something in culture, language, bonding with locals. There are always tradeoffs in life; and some will choose what’s shown in Door 1 or what’s behind Door 3. The difference is that adult immigrants make that choice for themselves, but not the next-generation.
Immigrants are narrow-mindedly focused on making money and “surviving”. I put that in quotes because most immigrants I see could have survived back home. Even more true today given how China and India have come up and have far more opportunities. Oh sure, they couldn’t make 6 figures, but that’s a different story. Maybe they should focus less on their financial dreams and more on what being a non-white immigrant means, especially for their kids. Even if that cannot be as easily measured.
Every once in a while I’ll go back to my dad’s home country and talk with relatives. They’ll say “He’s such a hero. Going to America.” I say nothing because I know they’ve never experienced a life where they’ve ever wondered if they belong at a fundamental level. They’ve never experienced the feeling of simply not mattering to huge swaths of people who don’t hate you with the fervor of a bigot but have the indifference of someone who will never see you as fully human; to be seen an oddity or a human with asterix next to their name. They can’t define this quality or know how it’s like to live without because, for them, it’s always been a given. It’s identical to the indifference of our problems that white men here have towards us. If it’s never taken away or denied to you, you don’t know it exists. So they stay invested in the “hero narrative” of the Asian immigrant to the US.
Psychological Needs Matter; They May be Primary even if they’re not Measured*
I read a list of psychological needs:
- emotional security
- recognition of efforts or reassurance of worth
- creative outlets
- a sense of personal power
- a sense of roots–belonging somewhere
- love in all its forms
This list should be handed to every non-European thinking of going to the US and subjecting their children to it. Any fool can have kids. Responsible parents should seriously consider any major decisions that totally reshapes the life their kid will lead.When you think of how much of that list is either withheld to Asian kids here or one has to struggle for in ways they would not back home, it’s enough to make you think that non-white immigrants should be castigated for their narrow-mindededness and self-interest, not praised as heroes.
Often I hear from Asian immigrants, a BOASTFULNESS about how little money they had when they immigrated. I’ve heard so many I just think to myself “Wow, that sounds like an orgy of poor planning.”. I am jaded with it. They always exaggerate. “Oh, you came here with $200; that’s nothing. I came here with $25!”. And I know even back decades ago and even in Asian countries, you could save more than $25. I’m not saying they didn’t have money problems. They did, but they feel a need to blow this out of proportion to further the hero narrative in their own head.
The thing that gets me is that Asian parents rarely CARE about how the environment their child is growing up in is different than the one back home. They claim to care about being good parents, that being a father matters to them- but they don’t give a fuck about how their parental lessons are totally the wrong instruction because they’re based on a different culture. They don’t care about the unique challenges their “slant-eyed” or “shit-skinned” kid will face in a world they dont’ understand intuitively.
They don’t care that kids are so vulnerable that if you come up “othered” amongst a majority of locals and authority figures who also see their basic behaviors as threatening, that this can scar them far more than adults. That as kids, they don’t have the sophistication to navigate or tolerate these differences as well. NO. Their job as a parenting is done because they’re in America and “that’s what counts!”. Woe betide you if you bring these issues up to your parents. All these inconveniences of their kids struggling simply muddies the waters of their unassailable decision to the come to the US and if they are having problems with their teachers or other kids, well, they should not be “fighting with their teachers” or “they should get new friends” or “it will be OK”. Now back to the dry-cleaners or engineering office.
Preparing Children for the Unique Social Ecosystem that is America — Or Not
I was listening to Chris Rock one fine day and he was talking about his daughter. He said “If I had a son, I would spend all day teaching him to deal with white people.” And he implied this is something he has to teach his daughter about too, but minority men have it toughest. Minority women can always use the “innocence” of being girls or ladies to get a pass; their prized sexuality when they pass puberty means open invites to social conversations, parties, friendships, and dating. Boys get nothing. The monopolization of social status by whites means others are often frozen out socially, or get by on crumbs. They just don’t bring something to the “table” the way that minority chicks do in terms of providing immediate value to white men. So there are hurdles if you’re competition and not a servile GF or easy hookup.
Chris Rock is a smart guy. But he has high emotional quotient. He has an active right brain. Importantly, he cares enough about more than just money and “making it” that he realizes there is more to parenting than just shitting out replicants of yourself. Especially when you knowingly bring your kids into such a different environment. Minority parents are NOT parenting if they don’t teach their kids that life will be different for them. You cannot just gloss it over or tell them not to think about it. It’s not about being paranoid. It’s being realistic, and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
I had a professor in college who taught a class on diversity. He talked about how multiculturalism can work and can even be beneficial BUT it wont’ happen on its own. People need training to counter their instincts and learn how to listen to each other. Now why do Asian immigrants hope for successful assimilation of their kids but do NOTHING to help it along? It is because the tales of assimilation, of the ease by which the immigrant becomes “just another American” was cemented in America’s earlier years, before 1965, when the majority of ‘immigrants’ were actually other white people. Where fitting in only meant working on your accent, wearing different clothes, and Anglicizing your name. No wonder everyone thinks it’s so easy, you just cut old allegiances, be American, stop being hyphenated, and your set.
Whites lead the effort on forwarding the “easy assimilation” meme. Asian immigrants don’t think hard enough about it and assume it’s right; but should be “especially so” for their kids. They have bought into the myth. (Interestingly- Whites never acknowledge that THEY are usually the problem when assimilation does not go as sold; that the reason minorities “self-segregate” are the micro-aggressions and in-group bias they usually demonstrate even to minorities who are eager to be accepted.) First-gen Asian immigrant parents have been misled about the ease of assimilation of their kids based on old heuristics; they don’t care enough to notice this and clumsily expect Kumar or Wenjing to become “All-American” just like Fritz did way back when- and even better that they don’t have to do ANYTHING and it will all happen.
(here one may argue well the parent is also new to America. the parent is an ADULT. further there are a community of adults; have any of these millions of people not organized information for newly arrived Asians on how to parent in this new country)
Second-gen and later-gen minority men are the ones who have to realize all these problems the hard way. We are the ones who will pick up after the mess our parents created; problems that are the direct results of their choices, which they did not anticipate, did not bother to recognize, and ultimately did not care enough about. There are already interesting if controversial books on the subject of ‘how to deal with white people’ and I suspect there will be many more. We will do what they did not — to have the empathy, emotional quotient, and selflessness to do – which is to build a better life for the community and the ones that come after us, not simply chase the dollar.
When I think of my own family, my parents came from relatively wealthy families. Both of them. A fine life could have been had living there. The notion that we ‘escaped poverty’ is something I was told when I was a child and made an utter joke when I grew up and saw the reality. One home we inherited was worth millions alone. Some immigrant stories are truly rags to riches. Many more are much less extreme. To say anything that contradicts the old Immigrant narrative of heroism, however, is to invite criticism. Studies have shown that earning money beyond a certain point, one that is not much above basic sustenance, car ownership, etc. does not improve one’s well being or happiness. Adjusted for purchasing power parity, ALOT of non-white immigrants to the US would be similarly happy back home, and their kids might be much more so.
I think of some passages from Big Little Man from Filipino author Alex Tizon. How he meets different Filipino-American families; in one, the boy is probably 14 and already has the hardened expression of someone much older. Someone who is used to being disregarded and rejected. At such a young age, he has become weary of a world where he can’t win. Whether it’s our kids or others, this is something that shouldn’t happen. I think of how when I was younger, I got along well with others; and there were other young Asians who did not. Some who had it way too hard; bullied because of their race. I see their broken lives as adults. And I also think it unfortunate we didn’t all band together. Sometimes, we even distanced oursselves from them because we were simply unaware of what was happening and reacting instinctively. No one told us. We were kids for crying out loud- we were six year olds, we were high school students; and somehow not one of all these supposed geniuses from the East could counsel us on what to expect.
There is a way to make America work for the next generations of Asian-Americans that come after us. But it’s something that will take sacrifice and a desire to improve the lives of others, something the prior generation claimed, but often did not live up to.
And while we’re at it. Maybe we should send an SOS to India and China to at least think what moving here would mean for their children and what it would mean for quality of life not just $$$. For every non-white immigrant “living the dream” there are many unpublished accounts of those who are not, and the misery their kids endure is not the stuff of heroism but villainy. To move to the US and bring non-white children up here and throw them into the lion’s den without providing a culturally relevant upbringing and guidance should be designated as child abuse.