Sheng Li (gmachine1729) wrote,
Sheng Li

Q&A with a hybrid 3rd generation Chinese-American 4th generation Japanese-American (same person

Originally published at 狗和留美者不得入内. You can comment here or there.

How Was it Like Growing Up? It is hard to describe what it was like growing up in such a family. All I can say is that I always knew I wasn’t “White”—that is, I looked different from everyone else around me; what I was instead, however, wasn’t immediately clear. I probably grew up with the most incoherent sense of identity out of anyone I know.  Most “Chinese” around me were 4th generation Chinese Americans—descendants of the railroad workers—that largely originated from Taishan and did not speak Mandarin. In fact, it was considered a bit rare to actually encounter someone of Chinese ethnicity that actually spoke Mandarin (or someone of Japanese ethnicity that spoke Japanese). No one in my family speaks Japanese or Chinese at this point (besides me) and continues to lack any sense of ethnic awareness. It was basically a cultural ghetto.

It was kind of like Luke Skywalker’s upbringing in Star Wars. Most people around Luke Skywalker were ignorant proles that lacked knowledge of anything outside the backwater in which they existed, and only Obi Wan Kenobi knew the true story. At that time, it would’ve been impossible for Luke Skywalker to know what a Jedi or Darth Vader is, because based on his life experiences up to that point (dealing with proles) he had no theoretical basis to expect a phenomenon like the Jedi, or Darth Vader. It was like that: only my grandmother, like Ben Kenobi, really knew where we were from (my mother was raised in America) but I wasn’t taught Chinese at the time and couldn’t converse with her on any meaningful level. My grandfather, the only one that had actually lived in Beijing prior to 1949, died one month before I was born. So there was a huge information bottleneck until I was able to speak with my relatives in Beijing.

How did you connect with your Chinese roots? I connected with my Chinese roots when I went to China for a study abroad program in Beijing. Many things changed me that summer—for the first time, I learned the truth about my background. You see, up until that point, I had been told a narrative of how my family was quite poor in China and that we were fortunate to have made it to America and that in general, there was a linear and upward progression of things—that is, things were becoming better over time. However, once I visited my family in China, I realized the vast majority of what my mother had told me was not true—in actuality, my grandfather came from a fairly high IQ, educated, wealthy family. We weren’t these dirt-poor peasants that had somehow become enriched by having been in America, but the complete opposite! Actually, my grandfather was educated in English and had a higher quality education than I did. Anyways, this was something that I wasn’t able to tell people when I came back, because 1) People generally don’t want to acknowledge inconvenient information and 2) it’s the complete antithesis to the American dream. So, up until now, I have only told this story to people with similar narratives, most of whom don’t live in the United States.

How did you react to the alternative viewpoints by family in China? So, the alternative outlooks provided by my family in Beijing were definitely the spark that lit the fire. Of course, at that point in time, I knew that I enjoyed the experience of being with my relatives in Beijing, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Usually in the course of life, we encounter some intuition and phenomenon and are later reassured of its existence through other people’s validation. For example, if I go to Japan, see that it’s clean and this observation corresponds with what other people are saying and have written about the topic, I can be sure that my experiences match reality. Yet, with my time in Beijing, the overwhelming majority of people I spoke to did not come to the same conclusion. Everyone kept on saying America was the best, the rest of the world was worse. My experiences simply didn’t fit the standard narrative regarding the way the world worked, and everyone that I had been told knew more than me about the way the world worked was continually denying my intuitions. As such, I thought I was seeing things for a while. However, a couple of things later validated my experience: first, I uncovered a trove of politically incorrect writings that corresponded with the reasons as to why I was emotionally unsatisfied by the American experience. Second, the outcome of the 2016 elections was predicted by many on the blogosphere. What this meant that I was not seeing things, but rather a sizable amount of the population agreed with me—they just weren’t, and still aren’t, permitted to voice what they actually think in public. It was one of the most validating experiences of my lifetime.

Why Against Liberalism? Liberalism has caused me and my family to engage in suboptimal decision making for a really long time. The ideals of egalitarianism and equality, in particular, have led to some disastrous consequences. The decision, for example, for my mother to marry into my dad’s family was premised on the idea of equality and that all humans really are created equal. The decision of our parents to send us to public high school and intentionally surround us with the dregs of society was based on the idea that anyone can be anything. It’s simply impossible for anyone to engage in any rational decision-making if they continue to delude themselves.

Asian-Americans As time goes on, I start to feel less in common with “Asian-Americans’: for one, I think the term “Asian-American” has a very hollow meaning. Basically, it’s someone that “looks yellow” and may or may not have an understanding of where they were before America. By this logic, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are the same.  This is horse shit. To the extent that there’s any commonality amongst the people commonly understood to be “Asian-Americans”, it’s that they’ve all shed any vestiges of their own traditional culture, and the common culture between them is basically mainstream popular trash culture. I have found that it’s never a good idea to bond with people over being in the same shitty situation. I’ve also noticed that the shittier the situation is for Asian-Americans, the shittier they are to each-other. I noticed this especially in the Northeast, where Asians have less political power and are incredibly combative with each other. I find it really hard to want to cooperate with others in environments like that.


Tags: 中国/китай, 教育, 日本, 美国亚裔

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