ryu+1991+-+The+1.5+generation

ryu+1991+-+The+1.5+generation - 4mm lixN/K Agog/Wig; I Ada/e

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Unformatted text preview: 4mm lixN/K Agog/Wig; I Ada/e Bruit’EECQflCLS) W‘xarmm J Good = A Le, £6329“ W3 $1.5 G NERATION Charles Ryu old K organ American who immigrated to the United States from Korea at age seventeen. He has attended Boston University, the University of Chicago, and Yale and it currently a minister for the Korean Methodist Chmch and Institute in New York City. Charles is a thirty-year- it the 1.5 generation, but we young ministers don’t Sociologists call 6 it a different name # we call it, trans- like it very much, so we gav TC. I’m a TC. TGs are those born in Korea, who stayed there until their teens, then came to America. By the time they come to the United States, they have can language, and the cultural behavior that hey came to America at such an age where nHuenced by the new culture, so the latter Somehow generation — already acquired the Kor is uniquely Korean. But t they were still very easily i art of their teenage life was formed by American culture, d this mixed identity. They are functionally fluent in both functionally. They tend to speak Korean with an ded Korean school only up to thejunior high And English is not their first language. , I speak pretty fluent English, but it‘s not polished. I still have an 3% used to call the 1.5 generation bilingual, but also, bi-illiterate. We are bicultural, but we don‘t belong to any culture, therefore we are biculturally deprived. Even though English is not the mother tongue of TGs it soon becomes their lingua franca, because that‘s what they use all the time. You may learn some level offluency, but you can never use it like native speakers. At the same time, because you don’t use the Korean language all the time, it recedes. So you are bilingual, but you are not fluent in either language. We tend to mix things together, so ifI meet with 1.5 generation, 1 don’t have to feel strained in my expres- sions, because l mix both languages; sometimes using Korean language ntax or vice versa, or making up new expressions which but nobody understands except 1.5 generation One of the greatest problems of the 1.5 generation is not having a place to belong to because neither social matrixes, that of Koreans in America, or Americans in general, know what to do about this group. they develope ianguages, but only English accent; they atten or high school level, and left. in English sy are very lovely, Clo $8“th bmwhtnns: Qgcg 9655mm all: 93% is Quirk (denova Mt‘tcaos l has)th no] 136%, Combed l l l l l l toe- \. \what you speak. So if you have language fluency, The’re anomalies. In a Korean setting. you have to act like Koreans - - . not being one‘of them. You try to fit in the main- stream, and the same thing happens. You're not quite American The firstgeneranon see me as the second generation, and the second gen- eration see me as the first generation. I see myself as being nowhere and that nowhereness has become part of my struggle The 1.5 generation can be forever lost, and most of them are lost so they either withdraw from involvement, orjoin gang activities. Most Korean American gangs are ofthe 1.5 generation. They came here and had difficulty adjusting. Gangs at least give them some structure The possibility of a COsmopolitan personality in a real global sense can be possible with the 1.5 generation. Meaning, human bein s tend to be very parochial with whatever they confront. Because yiu are forced to move back and forth between two cultures,Korean and Amer- ican; or we can put it in the larger context of Eastiand West" or we Can Y put it in the context ofa nee-colonial power: America, and a colonial subject: Korea—this cuts across all these boundaries and also en- erations. So that being a 1.5 generation Korean Ameriian at this Eime in human history pOses a unique possibility of seeing all these thin s gmbodied in‘the existence. That’s my theological reasoning. OfcoursE too I Language: Lan ua ' culture and culture is langua e. YE'Eié t at express yoursélf, and can communicate better. At themslgiiles gilt-loci: America, there is a kind of chauvinism about language; the wa ' estab- lished Americans use language, as a leverage to put you down )I think that is social insecurity, but we do that. That’s why we try to get rid 0f accents, even regional accents of native speakers. Language becomes status. Unless you become fluent, with no accentwwhich means no individuality, right? —— you’re nobody. Am'erica tends to make evervone nobody, before they can become somebody. If you don't speak En] lish well, then you are 'stupid. I went through that in high school. Sogthat when I met somebody, he didn’t care what I had to offer. It becomes a lanWt—lmoufi’becaufiwdfifispea t lan u e way they did. There‘s automatic marginalization in every- mg yo 'flhverything you are. Especially in high school and depressing'is‘ttuatienw__ - , a v V saint/one of the gagesmnom'm”ourlanguage behavior of racism IS the—q.uestion““Wli€re are you from?" People always ask me that. 1 always say, “I'm from Los Angeles.” And then they'have to decide if 1 was born here and grew up somewhere else with my family, or if 1 was born elsewhere, and grew up in LA. Then they ask, “What is your nationality?" Nationality is a legal status, and I say I am an American college when you're still trying to develop who you are,’it’s anilincrediby/ ASIAN AMERICANS citizen. Then they really get frustrated an in Korea or not. I say, “Yes, I was born in Korea,” and they feel at l i 01$?” {A home. Once the ’ve made me an outsider, they feel at home. They get (1 they ask whether I was born so angry with me claiming to be American ecause I‘ve been here only eleven years. And I have no right to talk about America, because I am not a white American. Any analysis I make about American society as an American citizen, even with my educational background, simply doesn’t count. Once they've established that I wasn't born here, they say, 06 "You're an outsider. You have no right to stay in America." I was bluntly @ \ told. “If you don‘t like it here, why do you stay? GWH’IC," many, ' many times. I don’t get angry. So among Koreans, language anxiety is f very, very strong. If you speak good English, you tend to think you are hose who don’t speak good En- rsjpgis‘l‘b better off than those that don‘t. And t i y glish, are often envious of those who can. So it is there; we don’t speak h this and I felt good about myself because about it. But 1 went throug I speak good English. Once I realized I was doing this, I felt sick. E‘iMM‘ " Racism: There are profound suspicions that you don't count simply ,\WV%‘-\ 5 ‘because you’re not white American. And once you suspect that, every- thing that happens around you feeds on that. For instance, when I was at Boston University, I was one of the top students. Nobody cared to ask me if I wanted to go to graduate school. The department chair called in my white friend and gave him a chance to go to Oxford. My 1d me that I’m the one who should have gotten it. Then when .r. _¥) fiwéot into the University of Chicago, I told my teachers, and they said. c . to the U of C. Good for you.” thing I experienced. Another is having to prove a Western philosophy class. I was the only non- And my presence in that class means everything America is not a racist country, because, I, an Asian, made it to Chicago, Boston. Yale. But at the same time, there’s tion that minority students take up a lot of financial aid, and I would lower the standards for everyone else. So when l was there, a lot of people assumed I got in because I am an Asian, and not because I am good. And they are fiabbergasted when I excel, and they get angry and it shouldn’t happen. I play the role of token minority so well. I get picked out as the only minority, only Asian, and 1 make people very comfortable, in certain ways. I have this suspicion that I am always dispensable. In taking an ethics class with an Oxford trained scholar, I had dif— ficulty in the way he argued his position. 50 I made a point against his position, and his response, which shocked me. was not to what I argued. l challenged him with so difficultyabout’thesysté'fiherwas-su-é porting. His answer wasigl think Confucius was a good ethicist, too.” I was lucky that my father and mother a _ ins Western person there. is fair. In other words, an assump that somehow sked meto take philosophy. But my guidance counselor was profoundly distressed. She said, "You will never make it." I mean, discouragement begins in high school. It took a long time to convince my counselor that I could make it because I was from Korea, and the had never seen a Korean make it outside I ont t ink Asians prefer the sciences. Sometimes it is the on y avenue open to them. In the sciences, empirical results matter more than in the esoteric discussion of humanities. So that at least as an engineer, you know how to put machines in, and you can be a useful bolt and nut. And I think the job opportunities for us lie in this field. Having bread on the table everyday is important, so they compromise and work in those fields. A lot of engineers are profoundly unhappy because their work is not good enough to try for such areas as philos- ophy or literature. Disillusionment: The biggest disillusionmen American dream is a lie. It had a lot to do with growing up. As a kid you tended to see things in black and white. Now you see things in perspective. I did become an American citizen because I transplanted myself here. But all the promises of America are a dream and well-orchestrated hoax th ' y —— for most Americans, even. Amer- ica is not a freedom-defending democratic country, but simply a cap- italist imperial force that does whatever it wants to do for its profit. I didn’t have very many dreams. Coming to America was just another way of living, because survivability in Korea was questioned. Oppor- tunities and the ability to study were the main things. And that I have achieved in some ways. But at the same time, coming to America shat- tered my self image tremendously. I had to rebuild it. And the rebuild- ing process, which is still going on, is something good. I like it. But my na'i‘ve idealism was shattered. Anything and everything America does promised a lot of idealism: If you try hard, you will make it, it’s up to you. If you don’t make it, there’s something wrong with you, which is America as a Christian country —— which was an assumption untry that needs to cast judg- ciand political injustice to go not true; I had —— was profoundly shaken. It’s a co ment on everything, yet we allow economi by. Racism was an eye open I couldn’t believe that I was part 0 er. I didn't know what racism was about, and f the racism in certain ways, and that was a very disillusioning experience. And also my assumption that America has been a friend to the Korean people since the late nineteenth century was shattered. I learned that it was never a friend; that Korea was just another Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico to be exploited and used, and controlled, and immigration is a result of that neo-colonial im- pingement into the Far East. Once they (Americans) established themselves in the 19605, multi- ________________'_.__—__——-——-——-~—-—— 1.5 Generation : Charles Ryu esséi‘vfiu e, t I had was that the ' COM +0 ( 54 W ASIAN AMERICANS national corporations came to South Korea, and as a result, the middle class collapsed. Small sized businesses all collapsed-My family belonged to that category, so I had no place to go. Either you become part of this gigantic conglomerate, or you had to leave, and you left. We came to our master’s country. Still, a lot of other Koreans continue to come to America with the hope of making it in the American dream, which they couldn’t do in Korea. The Good Things: I learned to love the way I am. I don’t ask which place is good for me to live anymore. I simply ask what I can do where I am. I love my ministry. I'm a workaholic. I find meaning in talking with others. America provides this unique opportunity to meet with all kinds of people, which I was not given while I was in Korea. I am meeting with other Asians, blacks, whites. I don't know any other place I can do that, except in America. There is a freedom in America, that is a blessing, and my will is to use that to make America a more just society. Manama Adawbmtzsrmb-‘Ln "raxrsswmmmmmmw<e-LAuu-mm.“. . ...
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ryu+1991+-+The+1.5+generation - 4mm lixN/K Agog/Wig; I Ada/e

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