Generational Gap between Asian-Americans
June 23, 2021
Before and after America: A second generation Asian American’s perspective on the generational gap, a history of silence
When it comes to what my parents’ life was like in Vietnam, I sadly know next to nothing. There are photos, homemade videos and letters, but my parents rarely sit down and tell me stories of growing up in a communist regime.
The sudden media popularity of attacks on AAPI has spawned a wave of support across the country. This outpour of love and solidarity comes in the form of empathy, spreading awareness, resources and motivation. I figured hard conversations are better to have sooner rather than later.
I’ve been meaning to ask my parents about what Vietnam was like when they were children. I assume it has shaped their political beliefs and our relationship; I honestly think it will make communication between us much clearer.
My parents were born in the middle of the Vietnam War. It’s something I don’t think about too often, and they seem content with not telling me more than ‘it was hard working in the fields.’
My mom tells me that she doesn’t like cats or dogs because they were clingy in Vietnam, that she had to take three buses to get to work in America and that she’d only eat one meal a day to pay off the mortgage faster. My dad tells me he knows he had to go up to the mountains to pick leaves, had polio twice when he was a child and is lucky to be alive.
My parents and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and they like to retell what they heard on the news to me. Inevitably, we’ll disagree on something, but I either don’t know how to word my argument in “Vietglish”, or I let my emotions run the debate. Then, we just forget about it.
I think they’re trying to shield me from horrible things they’ve gone through. While I can understand that, I think having open communication is much more important. Perhaps that’s selfish—asking them to relive something that’s probably traumatic—but I don’t want to regret not asking.
Many second generation Asian Americans can attest to having communication problems with their parents. It’s another issue that’s always swept under the rug—one that only we can deal with.
There is no call to action here if you’re not a part of this group. Rather, just know that this cognitive dissonance is something we’re dealing with, and continue to be understanding and educating yourself.
API Heritage Month is over, but there’s a long way to go in dismantling the myth of the model minority among other things. I have faith we’ll tackle that issue someday if #STOPAPIHATE doesn’t die down.
If other people can be brave and rally against AAPI hate, then I can be brave too and start a long overdue conversation. To fellow Asian Americans who can relate, I believe in us.
“Con muốn biết Việt Nam giống gì chừng nào Mẹ với Ba là nít. Nói con được không?”
“Mom, Dad, I want to know what Vietnam was like when you were children. Could you tell me?”