Vietnamese Immigrant Youth and Citizenship: How Race, Ethnicity, and Culture Shape Sense of Belonging

Vietnamese Immigrant Youth and Citizenship: How Race, Ethnicity, and Culture Shape Sense of Belonging

Vietnamese Immigrant Youth and Citizenship: How Race, Ethnicity, and Culture Shape Sense of Belonging

Vietnamese Immigrant Youth and Citizenship: How Race, Ethnicity, and Culture Shape Sense of Belonging

Synopsis

Nguyen focuses on the connections between immigrant youth and the role that schools function in shaping their citizenship. Drawing on data from an ethnographic study that took place in an urban high school, Nguyen examines the processes that recent immigrant youth underwent as they transitioned to their new school contexts and engaged with issues of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, language, and citizenship. Findings help to illuminate how immigrant youth constructed meaningful citizenship and forged a sense of belonging while other social processes cultural maintenance, racialization, assimilative ideology, and exclusionary practices were acting on them.

Excerpt

The “Pledge of Allegiance” was part of the school-wide morning announcements. Every morning as the student-led pledge was recited over the P.A. system, Mr. Kent directed his ESL students to place their right hands on their chests, face the flag, and follow along the recitation. Most of the students in Mr. Kent’s 10 grade science class recited as much of the pledge as they could. But after the initial phrase, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” they trailed off to an almost inaudible level. While they were not able to recite the entire pledge, the students remained standing and facing the flag. After the announcements, I asked two Vietnamese immigrant students what they thought of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Hai, a 19year-old male student, who has been in the U.S. for two years replied:

It is important to learn the pledge to the flag because it
displays an appreciation for America. America took me in and
I live here now. I want to express my appreciation. I will
become a citizen of America one day; however, I don’t see
myself becoming an American on the inside. I could never
forget my roots or my language. But I will become a citizen…
Besides, how can a Vietnamese immigrant ever be an
American? We are Vietnamese and will not be seen as
Americans.

Linh, a 16-year-old female student, responded:

Becoming an American is an opportunity to help me to be
more successful. I want to learn English and American culture
so that I can succeed in school and find a good and important

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