As Gen Z Asian Americans Reach Majority, Vast Majority Feel They Don’t Belong | American News
ANika Lima experiences a “grey area” when it comes to belonging in America. Although she feels American, was born in the United States and has lived here all her life, the UCLA student said she regularly experiences racialized micro-aggressions and that she was often mistaken for an immigrant. “I usually wear cultural clothes and a lot of people think that means I recently immigrated,” she said. “I guess they see it as weird or foreign.”
It’s something she’s fought all her life.
When Lima was born in 2003, her Bangladeshi American parents wanted their daughter to have a racially ambiguous name. They didn’t want anyone to have a negative perception if they saw his name on a class list or a job application, so instead of passing on his father’s last name – which could quickly identify him as Muslim and South Asian – Lima’s parents chose a surname associated with the Portuguese people.
“Even though 9/11 happened before I was born, it still affects my daily life,” said Lima, 18.
Growing up in Southern California, hijab-wearing Lima was asked by one of her classmates when she was going to bomb their school. At age 10, she was interrogated and randomly searched at the airport. When she came home with a poster of an airplane from a Girl Scouts event, her parents told her not to post it in case people got the wrong idea.
Now, she said, seeing a further increase in anti-Asian attacks since the start of the pandemic has hurt her heart.
An overwhelming majority of young Asian Americans are struggling to feel fully accepted as Americans as they reach adulthood amid an alarming rise in harassment and bullying, rhetoric anti-Asian people, hate crimes and incidents against their communities. Students have reported being spat on, beaten, accused of eating dogs and bats and being called names like “China virus”, which can have a huge psychological impact.
According to the recently released Staatus (Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the US) index report, only 19% of Asian Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 strongly agree that they feel like they belong and are accepted in the United States, compared to 51% of those over 65. The study found that Asian Americans are the least likely to feel accepted compared to Black Americans, Latinos and White Americans, even when they were born in the United States.
Experts say a mix of feelings of marginalization, of being seen as perpetual outsiders, rising anti-Asian hatred and violence, and the power of social media to highlight injustice are pushing Americans to Gen Z Asians felt less accepted in the United States than older generations who felt more pressure. Assimilate.
“There is violence in places that you assume are safe spaces for Asians, like Chinatowns and Koreatowns,” said sociologist Anthony Ocampo, author of The Latinos of Asia: How Philippino Americans Break the Rules of Breed. “Coupled with things like mass shootings and anti-Asian rhetoric nationwide, it makes it riskier to participate in American life – or so the perception.”
Ocampo said the Trump era has led to an increase in hate crimes and hate incidents that have made Asian Americans feel more foreign. Since arriving in the United States, Asians have faced racism, xenophobia and violence. The Yellow Peril stereotype, which took hold in the 1800s, branded Chinese Americans dirty and disease-carrying. Asian Americans have been scapegoated during economic downturns and murdered in anti-Asian riots and massacres.
“Racist violence against Asian Americans and other non-white people has been constant,” Ocampo said. “It’s an ugly part of our history that people are trying to forget or erase from all sides of the aisle, but it’s worth remembering.”
For many young Asian Americans, the Covid era is the first experience of nationwide anti-Asian sentiment and widespread attacks on their own communities, many of which have appeared in graphic videos on social networks. social networks. Platforms such as TikTok and Twitter have also served as digital spaces to educate and empower young people. Activists rallied on Instagram after events like the shooting at an Atlanta-area spa that left six Asian women dead.
“This generation is uniquely influenced and informed by social media,” said Christina Chin, a professor at Cal State Fullerton who studies youth and racial and ethnic identity. “I think the older generation relies so much on lived experience, whereas I think the younger generation is much more impacted by many racial inequalities and social issues.”
Chin said Gen Z wanted to claim their Asian Americanness in a different way from older generations, who felt more pressure to seek out forms of acceptance and belonging.
“Growing up, I didn’t feel like the prettiest girl in the class,” 21-year-old Emma Civita said. “Beauty standards were so focused on blonde hair and blue eyes.” Civita, who is American-Japanese, has often been asked “What are you?” as a child.
“Looking back, that’s a super weird question to ask a seven-year-old,” she said. “I feel like most people wouldn’t ask a white person ‘What are you?’ It’s only when you’re different that people ask that question.
Civita said she cares less about beauty standards today, proudly identifies with being Japanese, and feels she belongs in the country “for the most part”. She said watching the way Asian Americans, especially the elderly, have been treated throughout the pandemic has both saddened her and made her feel closer to her family.
“I think of my great-grandmother who was interned at Manzanar and I’m just like, ‘How can you profile an entire race?’ by the US government during World War II.
A 2020 Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign report found that 73% of young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders expressed anger and disappointment at the current anti-Asian racism in the country and many feared and feared. worried about the safety of their families.
As Asian American Erica Garcia, 22, said the Covid era was anxiety-inducing. “My mom is an essential worker and I was very scared for her,” she said. “I always have this thought in my head like, ‘I hope she’s okay.’ This concern extends to my friends, family and myself as well.
Garcia, a first-generation college student who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, said she didn’t fully feel like she belonged in the United States, as the daughter of a Chinese mother from the Vietnam and a Mexican immigrant father. “It feels like you’re torn between so many different cultures, including American culture, which I tried to fit into, but it never really worked out,” she said.
Being queer also affects one’s sense of belonging, as for young Asian Americans from traditional families, “the fact that homosexuality is part of your identity inherently makes you feel like a disappointment.” Garcia said her teachers, classmates and girlfriend all helped her come to terms with her identity.
Other Asian Americans, like 18-year-old Marcus Sanders, have always felt a sense of belonging. “It was very diverse growing up in Union City and there were a lot of Asian Americans, African Americans and Latinos,” he said, “so everyone was like a group minority. I never felt like I was different.”
Sanders, a three-star quarterback from the University of Oregon, said people were sometimes surprised to find out he was of Chinese and Korean descent because Asian American soccer players are still a small minority in the game. When he attended football camps, people would sometimes ask him if he was Hawaiian.
Sanders said he still feels accepted now that he lives in Eugene, Oregon. “No one treats me differently because I’m Asian,” he said, noting that racism and violence against his community was still a serious concern. He said his Korean grandmother had been racially harassed in public during the pandemic.
To combat the racism, harassment, and marginalization that many young Asian Americans experience, Stop AAPI Hate recommends that states implement ethnic studies in high school curricula so students learn about history. different American communities.
The Reporting Center also offers anti-bullying training for teachers and administrators, employing restorative justice practices and supporting AAPI student groups. They also recommend that social media companies create accessible and anonymous reporting sites on their platforms for victims of online harassment.
Lima said she thinks older generations of Asian Americans have been more accommodating and grateful for any representation in the public sphere, but her generation feels like they “deserve more.”
“I’m proud of parts of American history, but I’m also ashamed of parts of our history,” Lima said. “I want to improve my communities and I want more people to see us as Americans.”