Finding Identity in Asian American Youth

Often seen as “nerds” or “geeks”, the identity of Asian American youth have long been overlooked. Lee and Zhou state that this omission is not accidental, but rather intentional due to deeply rooted racism that stretches back to early Asian American immigration to the United States in the 19th century. Hence, Asian American youth have been homogenized into a single identity, a single group of a people. The label of “geek” or “nerd” is a definition and identity that does not acknowledge the unique life experiences that Asian American youth have daily. It does not account for the diversity within Asian American youth.

To understand and analyze the identity of Asian American youth, one must understand the racial struggles they have faced over the years. Lee and Zhou argue that one must begin their research on the international migration and American racialization of Asian American youth. Immigration has played a significant role in the formation of identity for Asian American youth. They are in a special situation of growing up in the United States, but being constrained by their immigrant family and the parents’ ancestral homeland. This clash of cultures has proved to be both a blessing and a curse in many cases, giving both reasons for support and reasons for conflict growing up. There is also a racial exclusion and stereotyping in the United States that label Asian Americans as foreign or the “other”. The process of labeling Asian Americans as foreign combined with the rise of the model minority myth have effectively determined the identity of Asian American youth in the eyes of other Americans. It has led to the invisibility of these youth and the silencing of their true identities.

Today, the Asian American youth are a diverse group of people. However, because of the restraints society has put on them, many feel American and not American at the same time. Because of their unique upbringing, and how society labels that upbringing as foreign, there has been an “emergent culture of hybridity” where Asian American youth claim both their ancestral culture’s roots and their places in American culture as part of their own identity. Long gone should be the days of the homogenization of Asian American youth. The diversity and uniqueness that they bring to American culture is far too interesting and too important to overlook. 

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