The 1.5 Generation: Succeeding for the Family

by Tomoka Adachi

Among international immigrants, there are issues from family as well society, and those factors impact the 1.5 generation. Various external elements pressure each individual immigrant and help to develop the social life of immigrants in relation to the society, whether in the native country or the receiving countries.

Mostly, the social status in the home country is less significant when people migrate overseas. Social ties and qualified careers become less useful and less important in terms of the immigrant life in the host countries. There is a status shift for immigrants, especially the first generation, resulting in various forms which heavily affect the performance of the 1.5 generation. As a consequence, 1.5 generation children are under family pressure in terms of the parents’ expectations to have better performance and social success compared to native speakers.

I would like to take a personal experience to illustrate this problem. I am a 1.5 generation migrant to Japan. I migrated with my family right after I finished primary school. Even though my mother worked as a high school teacher for 15 years in the home country, she was working in the restaurant, shops and so on service-related sectors for part-time work, which are considered as lower-class jobs in Japan. Thus, I tend to push myself and want to improve Japanese language ability as soon as possible to cope with the school curricula.

There are mainly three reasons that drive me to think that way. The first reason is an acknowledgement of the sacrifice of my family members to fulfill my education and expenses in Japan. My parents are not only giving up their stable careers but also social status in the home country to migrate to Japan. This is an invisible and indirect pressure that has influenced me to take the responsibility to work harder on my school studies and activities outside of school to financially support the family.

The potential disadvantage as a foreigner in Japan is the second reason. Scholars have argued about the notion of ‘immigrant optimism’, in that Immigrant parents tend to have expectations about their children’s advance that are significantly higher than those of natives, or the working-class (Alba & Waters 2011). Although in Japan there are privileges as a foreigner, the 1.5 generation is not able to benefit from them. Sometimes they may even have a negative influence. Compared to my classmates, our starting line is different. I am disadvantaged in various means, such as a lack of language capability, social participation, access to the job market, and the possibility to enter university. Under this circumstance, I have been forced to take more effort to compete as a 1.5 generation migrant.

The limited education support and assistance in school is the third account I took. While I was in junior high school, it was tough for me to catch up with my academic studies because there were fewer learning directions and treatment by teachers to me as an international student. Thus, Japanese public schools, like their counterparts in other countries, continue to face the responsibility of preparing immigrant children for their futures in Japan (Moorehead 2013).

Overall struggles within the 1.5 immigrant generation are likely to be ignored, based on what is appeared on the surface.

Reference

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Moorehead, R. (2013) “Separate and Unequal: The remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3. http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Moorehead/3980

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On Immigrants ‘Semi-Adapting’: Self-Defense, Not Resentment

by Robert Moorehead

In all social processes, you have to have the word ‘inclusion’. … without that word, I’m not going to change the world, and they’re not going to change me, because they’re going to have that culture of defense [from me]. Not resentment, but defense.

Lately I’ve been working on a paper for a conference, and I’ve been fixated on an interview with an immigrant father. Juan (a pseudonym) is a Peruvian of Japanese descent who migrated from Peru to Japan more than 20 years ago. Juan expresses his frustration over what he sees as the lack of inclusion of Peruvians and other migrants from developing countries in Japan, in contrast to the greater openness to foreigners from the United States or Europe.

I don’t have a voice (in Japan), and I never will have it, because they (the Japanese) will never know what I think. But, in this case, if an American or someone who speaks English and who has been to school … they’d say ‘Ah, he’s American,’ but in our case, Japanese descendants, all we have the surname and the face. That’s all I have in this society.

Sociologist Tanya Golash-Boza (2006) notes that we learn our place in society through social interaction, including whether to expect inclusion or exclusion. Based on his interactions, a married Japanese man in Japan may expect that his voice will be listened to, and that his relationship with his romantic partner will be valued. In contrast, a member of a subordinate group, such a racial, ethnic, or sexual minority, may learn instead to expect to be ignored, denigrated, or otherwise marginalized. In Juan’s case, he’s learned to expect to be excluded from decision-making at work, to be asked when he’s leaving the country, to have weak relations with his Japanese neighbors, and to be treated as if all Peruvians were alike.

Precisely what are we Peruvians missing in Japan? (Respect, I reply.) Exactly. Because we don’t have it. … We all have different amounts of education, and other experiences, but the Japanese don’t see us that way. They see us all the same. …

Thus, even as many Peruvians in Juan’s housing complex diligently follow the local housing rules and keep quiet to avoid bothering the neighbors, they still risk being blamed when problems occur. As Karen Tei Yamashita writes in her brilliant novel Circle K Cycles:

A tour of Homi Danchi [housing complex] … gives you a sense of an oppressive quiet—the sound of sleeping people who work the night shift, the sound of a silent majority who want very badly to be accepted, the sound of people trying very hard to be quiet. Even the children seem to play quietly. This is as quiet as Brazilians can possibly be. This is probably as ruly as it gets.

And yet, loud music blaring from an apartment will bring suspicions that the offending party is Peruvian or Brazilian. If the guilty party is found to be a Japanese teen, the prior suspicions will still be justified, as one time,  years earlier, it really was a foreigner.

For example, what I see in the factory, the highest position you could get is leader. Leader of who? The Japanese? No. Leader of the foreigners, foreigners like Brazilians, Paraguayans, and others. But here I can’t achieve more, I’m never going to achieve more. I’m never going to be a permanent [employee]. So that whole situation, it’s not resentment toward the Japanese, because my father and mother were Japanese, if they weren’t I wouldn’t be here. But it’s not a feeling of resentment, it’s more that the Japanese need to be more open toward foreigners ….

In a situation like this, how do subordinates respond? How can they respond? Openly complaining about poor treatment risks further marginalization, including having your complaints seen as proof that foreigners are incapable of integrating into social life in Japan—a logical fallacy that confuses cause and consequence and blames foreigners for their own marginalization.

Subordinates can, and often do, resist in many ways, as James Scott notes in Weapons of the Weak. Juan describes avoiding integrating further into Japanese society, saying “they’re not going to change me” and that he has only “semi-adapted.”

What we do is, we haven’t gotten used to it, we’ve semi-adapted. Semi. … I am more included, semi-included, in Japanese society than others. Why? Because of my physical features and my last name (which are Japanese).

This pattern of only “semi-adapting” means that Juan is done trying to fit in. It’s less a sign of resistance than of self-protection. If Japan includes him as a member of Japanese society, and not as a ‘foreign guest,’ then he’s happy to participate. But “you have to have the word ‘inclusion.'”

Whether the second generation will follow this pattern is unclear. Juan’s children are fluent Japanese speakers and envision their future lives as adults in Japan. As Juan notes, such an approach is essential for their future employment prospects in Japan. However, they may still face the stigma of their foreign ancestry.

Here in Japan, I’ve always thought that if you’re thinking of living here in Japan, in my children’s case, with semi-liberty practically (laughs). But they’re going to live here, so they’re going to have to study more, to be able to compete in whatever profession as foreigners with Japanese, because they’re fighting against one thing, that they’re not Japanese.

I’m hoping to decipher the contours of this pattern of ‘semi-adapting’ in a journal article. In the meantime, these blog posts will hopefully stimulate the analytical process, keeping things moving. What other examples are there of this approach? How can we better understand the experiences of assimilation/integration/incorporation of first-generation immigrants?

References

  1. Golash-Boza, Tanya. 2006. “Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)-American through Racialized Assimilation.” Social Forces 85(1):27-55.
  2. Scott, James C. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  3. Yamashita, Karen Tei. 2001. Circle K Cycles. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press.
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