Preservation Needed: 1.5 Generation

Unidentifiable fragrances shocked me as I entered the American Airlines airplane to become a part of a unique group of people, the 1.5 Generation.

I first heard this term during the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development Convention in Anaheim, Calif. in May 2008. I previously classified myself as a Chinese-American immigrant. I was unaware that being raised in China until 7 years old and then coming to the U.S. and having a second childhood here put me in a whole new group –the 1.5G.

When people ask me to identity myself, they ask: “Are you the first generation or the second generation?” I always had a hard time answering them. I came here young enough to assimilate into the American culture, but I was also old enough to have certain ideologies picked up from my seven-year experience in China. I am both.

I don’t blame them for not knowing that 1.5G exists because the problem is we didn’t know we have this category to define our experiences. We are not American-born second generation. Nor are we the first generation who came here as mature students, with our native country’s ideologies and traditions.

We are individuals that know a little of everything. I can read, communicate, and type Chinese but not write in Chinese. Like what my friends say, “Your Chinese sounds American.” I use the English styles for Chinese writing, which they say makes no sense.

We know at least two languages but don’t necessarily master both. Like many others, I still carry my Chinese accent. Some of our English is not good enough to be like the American Born Chinese (ABCs) and our Chinese is not good enough to be like the first generation. This confuses some 1.5Gs and makes us feel out of place with the ABCs.

When my first-generation friends say, “you are so ABC!” after I’ve done something clumsy, I respond, “No, I am CBC [Chinese Born Chinese]” because I want to fit in with them.

Sometimes I love it when people think of me as an ABC. It feels superior and better to be ABC, for some reason. The second generation’s language advantage gets them better access to resources and makes them well assimilated to the American culture, giving them power over the first generation.

Sometimes I don’t know if I like the things I purchase or I’m trying to act ABC. The high Nike shoes, American Eagle, and Holister: do we really like the design or is it because all the other ABCs and Americans wear it?

Feeling out of place, as 1.5Gs we shouldn’t have to choose which group we want to be like. More information and studies need to be done on us to preserve our uniqueness and to encourage us not to assimilate and disappear into other groups.

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Archive for College Now Journalism class.