Assimilating into stereotypes: exchange students and 2nd-generation immigrants

Anonymous student post

When I read the articles about assimilation and learned about assimilation in the class, I was recalling my experience in high school in the U.S. as a one-year exchange student, and try to consider assimilation issues based on that. However, as I try to compare a situation of second-generation immigrants and my case, I began to think my experience was totally different from that of second-generation immigrants.

In the U.S., I was called an “Asian” instead of Japanese, and Asian usually refers to East Asia. It did not take long for me to notice or feel what kind of stereotypes American people have for Asians. In general, Asian students in the U.S. were considered as studious, serious, geeks, etc. To be straightforward, as far as I felt, they found Asian students “boring” in general. Due to such stereotypes, they did not really expect me to say jokes or be athletic. When I said some jokes (even not really funny ones) or played sports better than normal students in the U.S., they were surprised and impressed, and gave me compliments. I assumed that this happened because they had a low expectation for Asian students in terms of humor or sports. I found it lucky to have sort of negative racial stereotypes because I can get attention and positive impressions just with little efforts. This actually motivated me to make efforts to be funny or popular in school.

I was then wondering if negative stereotypes could work positively for a certain race or ethnic of second-generation immigrants with negative impressions, and motivate them to succeed socioeconomically in a host county. However, while I was discussing this with professor Moorehead, I realized that negative stereotypes would work differently for second-generation immigrants from people who stay in a host country for a short period of time, like me.

It was completely a new experience for me to see people’s reactions when I did not meet their expectation of Asians. Thus, I was able to enjoy it. On the contrary, for second-generation immigrants, they have been dealing with such stereotypes repeatedly for their entire life. If they repeatedly felt that others are having a low expectation for them, they would be more likely to feel offended than be motivated.

In addition, I consider that these negative racial stereotypes would affect their performance more negatively if they felt they were “American”. In my case, I was nationally Japanese and considered myself Japanese, so did not really feel being offended being labeled as Asian, even when it was linked to some negative stereotypes. For those second-generation immigrants who considered themselves American, it would probably be more difficult to accept such stereotypes and fight them because they feel they identified less as Asians. Therefore, in my assumption, second-generation immigrants with a strong American identity would face more difficulty to fight their negative racial stereotypes and overcome them.

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