Cookie Cutter Molds
January 30, 2023
There are many differing expectations of what should be the norm for kids like these, from different figures in their lives. What is most often the case for specifically Asian-American stereotypes and assumptions is academic excellence, though those stereotypes are often founded in truth.
“A lot of standards to be, like, getting good grades, and having a good reputation, and in Indonesia there are very high standards to have a good education, and do good and school, and live a good life,” said Tjoar. “Because, in Indonesia, it’s very hard to come to America, so my parents think that since they were coming to America they know that they gave me a better chance in life like they’ve given me more opportunities, so there’s a lot of expectations for me.”
In most cases of immigration, as Tjoar illuminated, the parents’ motivations for immigration are to give their children a better life, and better opportunities than they would have had in their own country. However, histories of past immigration waves were always rooted in a sense of inferiority to, most often, white people, even when they were the ones immigrating. There is a systemic part of the society in America that perpetuates people who are not a part of that group to be lesser. And it’s stressful, having the pressure to have all of the required qualities that define success.
“I do feel like, sometimes, an overachiever. That’s kind of how I was raised, with academic excellence, and trying to get into schools and live a good life. I guess that’s my motivation in school and the principles I was raised on,” said Pham.
Fundamentally, most Asian cultures demand greatness. It’s seen in the countless stories or headlines that are heard about child prodigies and skill levels unimaginable for even adults. Talents, skills, mastery, perfection; all those are highly sought out qualities.
“Culturally, there’s just the push to be academically gifted because and do a lot because they see that as the only path towards success is to get into a good college and stability,” said Wu. “I don’t feel pressured by my parents, or like that, I hate doing what I do in school because it’s all my parents. I do like doing well in school and being ‘smart’ but I feel like those are values that have been instilled in me at a young age.”
Separating whether or not it is one’s own pursuit of perfection or it is the need to fulfill and make their parents and peers proud is a difficult task, which requires them to ask the question of what they actually want in their lives, what are their own aspirations. Are they doing this to make their parents proud, or because they actually enjoy it? It usually ends up as a mix of both. The early childhood years of development are usually where people most often build the foundation for their personalities and selfhoods, so when parents encourage academic greatness, it essentially coagulates into a part of that identity, creating those Asian-American stereotypes.
“It’s similar to the realistic expectation of Chinese immigrants but differs from the perceived expectation of like, tiger parents, which I know is true for some people. But I feel like my parents are a lot more supportive than I think people tend to think they should be, but I think that is the norm within the communities, they’re demanding but also incredibly supportive in a lot of ways that are understated within stereotypes,” said Wu.