Friday, April 19, 2024

Students reflect on generations

Plattsburgh State alumna Joy Yoonjung Che grew up in a multicultural community in New York City. She was surrounded by Hispanics and African-Americans, which led her to have a more open-minded view about culture.

When Che, who is of Korean descent, started her first semester, she was she viewed as an international student by college students. She was also asked “if she spoke American” when she introduced herself in perfect English.

“I was so dumbfounded honestly because it felt like they were being so ignorant and naïve and, in a way, very hurtful,” Che said.

With 11 percent of the American population having at least one foreign-born parent in 2009, according to the United States Census Bureau, 1-in-5 people are either first or second generation U.S. residents.

While some may face poverty or be mistaken for an international student, one issue that comes up is dual identity.

Second generation is defined as a native-born American with at least one foreign parent, according to the Pew Research Center and Census Bureau.

While second-generation Americans have a mix of both cultures, sometimes they get singled out because they don’t follow certain cultural ideas.

Director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion at PSUC J.W. Wiley said because they don’t represent the stereotypical dimensions of their culture, they are viewed as inauthentic.

Honduran-American Tanisha Miranda, whose aunt says she’s “Americanized,” not only gets mistaken for looking African-American but “isn’t Honduran” because she looks and acts American.

“A lot of my friends say, ‘Oh you act very African-American, it doesn’t seem like you’re from Honduras. You look more like an African-American versus being a true Honduran,’” Miranda said.

But family isn’t the only place second generation Americans get singled out.

Mexican-American Berenice Leon felt like an outcast when she went to Mexico for the summer.

While speaking Spanish to other Mexicans, they made fun of her because she didn’t know some words and didn’t speak full Spanish.

Leon said she gets defensive when she hears that, so she works to combine both Mexican and American cultures.

Bangladeshi-American Saleha Hossain does the same thing.

Growing up, it was always a challenge for Hossian to conform into both cultures.

She never considered herself to be more Bengali or American, but believes she can hold on to both cultures.

“I can definitely be Bengali and still hold on to my American culture,” Hossain said. “I can still have the best of both worlds.”

She grew up blending both cultures, but others have had a more difficult road.

Che thought she was a good representation of a Korean-American culture by knowing how to speak both Korean and English.

When Che discovered she was more interested in the Arts rather than the stereotypical Korean culture standard of math or science, she was considered a “fake Korean.”

“I was very resentful toward my own culture or my people, let’s say, for quite a while,” Che said. “That really made me not want to be Korean sometimes.”

Nigerian-American Leslie Ochonma switches between her Nigerian identity and American identity.

“I have to switch my identity with certain types of people, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Ochonma said. “I should be comfortable in whatever environment.”

Che recognizes there is not a definitive color to America. She said it took a long time for her to understand that, but she knows that even though her color may be different, she is still an American.

Ochonma said people may not have the opportunity to be raised with their parent’s culture, and it could give them trouble because they might not have an idea of what is going on.

“Having the opportunity to learn about your culture is truly an amazing thing,” Ochonma said. Or as Wiley put it, we all have the same struggles.

“You have to raise the conscious about everybody, that we all are having the same struggles, it may not seem like it because we don’t talk, but once we start to talk, we start to realize, ‘f— he just like her,” Wiley said. “The names have been changed but the same s— she’s going through, I’m going through. There’s a different context for it, but if you strip that down into just variables, her A is my A, her B is my B, f— it,’ and we don’t realize that.”

Email Alex Ayala at photo@cardinal

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