Ethnography: Assimilation of Chinese-Americans into American Society
May 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
As the first person in my family to be born and raised in America, I have personally struggled with efforts to assimilate into American society during my childhood. My parents immigrated to the United States from China, and the values and social graces they taught me at home often clashed with those I came across at school. For many first and second generation Americans like myself, it can be difficult to compromise American culture with the culture of the “old country” that they may still be exposed to at home. The assimilation process can also be affected by community they lived or grew up in. So for my ethnography, I will study the assimilation of Chinese-Americans into American society and how it is affected the community they lived in.
Coming to Duke allowed me to meet many Chinese-Americans who came from different communities from all over the country. For some Chinese-Americans, their experiences about fitting in with other Americans were wildly different from mine. For others, the stories they told were shockingly similar to mine. This has led me to wonder how our communities affected our assimilation process.
For my ethnography, I plan on talking mainly to first and second generation Chinese-Americans, for they are the ones who are most likely to still be in touch with their Chinese heritage. I will try to find people from a variety of communities to see if their community affected how they fit in with American society. For example, maybe a Chinese-American from a community with a small minority population assimilated easier because they felt more compelled to fit in. Or maybe he or she had a more difficult time blending in if the community was unused to minorities and had a harder time accepting them. I also want to know what factors within each community may have been obstacles in their assimilation process.
Although I have not yet formally begun any of my interviews, I have contacted potential subjects and briefly talked about the subject. So far, the diversity of the community seems to be one of the most important factors. Those who reported having no troubles assimilating into American culture mostly came from very multicultural communities, as members of these communities are more accepting towards people of difference ethnicities. Chinese-Americans who grew up in more ethnically homogenous communities, however, had a harder time being assimilated into their communities, as the people had a more difficult time accepting those who were “not like them.”
Other factors I hope to focus on include socioeconomic status and education level of the communities, as these could possible affect people’s attitudes towards immigrants. Hopefully, other factors I have not yet considered will be mentioned by my interview subjects during our conversations.
I hope that through this ethnography, I can help bring understanding to the trials that immigrants and their children face in adapting to American society. Though my ethnography is specific to Chinese-Americans, I hope that it can people become more accepting and understanding towards all races and ethnicities.