Student Voices: It’s No American Dream to Keep Up Stereotypes

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The “American Dream” is an idea that through hard work and perseverance, there will be opportunities and success. Yes, it does take diligence to be successful and reach your dreams. But you can work hard in Europe, Australia, or in many other places and still be successful too.

So why America?

America is so diverse and we don’t have as many abnormal laws as some countries do. We have many rights and freedoms. Many people came to America for reasons such as better living conditions, to keep in touch with relatives or friends, for economic and religious purposes, and so on.

Author Jia Ling, 15, is a student in the Chicago Public Schools
Author Jia Ling, 15, is a student in the Chicago Public Schools

In the United States, Asians are said to be one of the largest immigrant groups. The U.S. Census Bureau revealed that about 18.9 million U.S. residents are Asian as of 2012.

The majority of Asian immigrants likely came for the “American Dream,” just like my family did. My parents hoped that they would be able to find better jobs here. Just trying to reach America from China was a journey. I remembered the signs in a language that I didn’t understand. The stares in school. In the city.

And the stereotypes.

We were trying hard to fit in. Even though we moved to Chicago’s Chinatown, where we met people who were similar to us, it was not easy to adapt to a new country.

“Fresh Off the Boat” is an Asian-American comedy series to be aired in February on ABC. Based on a memoir, it is about Eddie Huang and his family moving to Orlando from Washington, D.C. His father is looking forward to the “American Dream,” but his mother is frustrated by it.

Ever since Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl,” series in 1994, there has not been something like this on network television. Actress and comedian Cho was most recently dressed up as a Korean general with bad English in a skit at The Golden Globes. Some people think it’s hilarious and some think it’s kind of racist.

Several stereotypes of Asian-Americans were seen in the “Fresh Off the Boat” trailer and the promos. “Asians like alcohol” is shown as Eddie’s parents were in their new restaurant and his mother shouted to two customers, “Hey, why you not drink beer?” She complained that they were only drinking water.

Countries in Europe actually drink more. The World Health Organization recently released the top 15 countries where people consume the most alcohol and China was not on the list.

In the trailer for the new show, other kids at school were disgusted by what Eddie brought for lunch. They thought he was eating worms, but they were noodles. “Asians eat everything that moves” is another stereotype.

No, they don’t. I don’t. My family and friends don’t; we think it’s sickening. Some Asians might eat dogs or cats, but what they eat is their culture.

“Asians are cheap” is one of the top stereotypes I’ve heard. In the trailer, Eddie’s mother was in an American market with Eddie. When an employee offered her a sample of the food in the market, she took all of the samples happily.

Many people want to save money, it’s not just the Asians.

We often lump a group of people together just because they have some things in common. For example, it could be their race or ethnicity. Still, we should not jump to conclusions when we just meet a person. There will always be stereotypes.

However, if we become more welcoming to immigrants and keep the judgments and stereotypes at a minimum, then everyone will be a little happier. You don’t want people to say something about you that doesn’t describe you as an individual. The trouble is not only is it not part of who you are, it may even hurt you.

And that is no dream.

Jia Ling Guan, 15, is a sophomore at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago. https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifShe was  born in Guangdong, China and has two younger brothers and a loving family. She is a participant in The OpEd Project’s Youth Narrating Our World.

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