Imagine one day you are forced to pack your bags, leave everything you know behind, and travel to a country across the world where everything seems unfamiliar. It sounds like no fun, right? For Asians living in diaspora communities in America, this is how their journey here in search of a better life went. Two authors who discuss this topic are Jong-yi Wang in his article “Place of Origin and Violent Disagreement Among Asian American Families: Analysis Across Five States” and Seoyong Kim’s article titled “Does Cultural Capital Matter?: Cultural Divide and Quality of Life”. Both of these authors conducted studies that attempt to understand problems that arise from living in diaspora. Wang and Kim both come to the conclusion that Asian American youth should assimilate to American culture, but in differing degrees.
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Much attention has been drawn to Asian Americans as of late, as“[they] are the fastest growing ethnic group in the US” (Wang 1). Asians are coming to America in increasing numbers, and are increasing their social and economic power in this country. They may have come here in search of a better job, or fleeing their country due to political or economic turmoil. Unfortunately, this divide between Asian and American cultures is causing problems in their homes. What is it that leads to these conflicts? Wang states that the main reason heated conflicts arise is because “immigrant parents maintain traditional family values while their children usually tend to adopt Western lifestyles” (Wang 3). The parents become frustrated with their child’s American lifestyle they are exposed to at school and other activities. This new way of life seems to go against everything the parents were taught of their own culture, which can cause heated conflicts between parent and child. This puts the child in an exceptionally confusing situation. On one side, they are struggling to be embraced by their fellow Americans, but on the other their parents do not want them to stray from their Western heritage. Wang also warns in his study that exposure to this kind of violence at home can “increase a child’s risk for emotional or behavioral problems as an adult, even if the child is a witness rather than a target of the violent behavior” (Wang 2). From this point of view, it may seem that Wang wants Asian American youth to stay away from American culture, but this is not the solution to the problem.
Syeyong Kim’s research draws another conclusion. Her research attempted to measure overall happiness of people living in diaspora. She does this through a study of her own, which found; “cultural divides influence, directly or indirectly, the quality of life” (Kim 311). Her research analyzed measures of overall life satisfaction and happiness of those who have versus those who have not experienced cultural activities such as food, art, movies, and music of their own culture. She then goes on to say how “[Asian Americans] who had more frequent and more diverse cultural experiences and spent more money for them showed more life satisfaction and happiness than those with fewer, less diverse experiences” (Kim 310). It is interesting that Kim discusses economic status in her research, as Wang fails to ever bring this point up in his paper. Kim’s conclusion is that in order to be more satisfied with life, Asian Americans must improve their economic and educational status so they can participate in more American cultural activities.
It appears as if both studies attempt to seek a solution to the struggles of being an Asian American living in diaspora. It also appears that Wang would not agree with Kim’s claims that being connected American culture is better for Asian Americans, as his thesis seems to be the exact opposite. But another finding from Wang’s research seems to validate Kim’s claim, “Short length of stay in the US and low acculturation have been shown to be associated with increased domestic violence among Asian-American families” (Wang 636). Wang seems to say here that the root of these conflicts at home is lack of involvement in American culture. When looking at it from this point, it seems like the two authors have a similar solution to this problem.
These results may show how those living in diaspora have even more difficulty getting used to a new culture if they belong to a lower economic class, as many diaspora members do. But another possible solution Wang brings up is to attempt to change values and beliefs many Asian Americans share. One such belief that he believes is making acculturation more difficult is “Avoidance of actions or disclosures that might bring shame on the family unit is strongly felt in most of Asian-American subcultures” (Wang 637). He believes strict cultural norms like this are what is holding Asian Americans back from smoothly assimilating to America’s culture. Kim discusses education and improvement of economic status as solutions, but never brings up changing cultural norms. She would most likely agree with this suggestion, as anything to get Asian American’s assimilated easier is a good suggestion from her point of view.
Although both authors conducted different studies and gathered different data, their conclusions turn out to be quite similar. The message would be for Asian American youth to participate in American culture, but at different levels. Kim believes that they should spend as much money and time as possible on cultural experiences like food, music, art, and theater. Wang, on the other hand, states that although it may lead to conflicts with their parents, the youth should participate in American culture, but should also not forget where they came from. Both authors warn that if the youth does not do this, it will have negative consequences on the quality of their lives. These studies also could apply to people of all ethnicities, and there is definitely no risk in trying to become more involved in one’s culture and history.
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