Sino American Reunion
ABC: Another Derogatory Term
I would like to explain by means of this article why I continue to refuse the popular usage of American-born Chinese or ABC, and have instead opted for Sino American. The term ABC is not only at odds with reality, but also carries certain derogatory implications. Its misleading nature has served to exacerbate the existing social difficulties which Americans of Chinese descent have suffered on an ongoing basis.
Many so-called ABCs were not born in America. What I mean is that, in nearly all cases when people use the term ABC, they include children who were born in China but taken to the United States at a young age, which was a very common practice over the last decades. This violates the literal meaning of the term and suggests that the term is consciously being used as a form of derision. In this case specifically, if the person who used the term stopped for a moment to consider its propriety - the sort of consideration which is universal among people when they are in situations where they have a stake in being polite - the falsity of the label would long have dawned on them. It is not possible, by any stretch of interpretation, to consider the birth of these child-immigrants as PRC citizens, and within the PRC's confines, as having been American in nature. The insistent use of this incorrect and sloppy label, even after it has been pointed out to the speaker, can be interpreted only as an expression of contempt against its subjects. This reason alone should be sufficient to ask for future speakers to reform their usage. However, the situation gets worse:
The term violates the pattern of X-born Y. Given that America has been, to a large extent, a country of immigrants, it was natural that an idiomatic expression should emerge to facilitate discourse regarding the onrush of newly minted American citizens, or in other words, immigrants: those who left their home country in pursuit of the American life. In almost every case, the term X-born Y has been employed to mean, "this person was a citizen of X at birth, but now, he (or she) is a citizen of Y." For example, Peter Thiel is considered a German-born American. Elon Musk is a South African-born American. According to this model, a yellow child of Chinese descent who was born in America and has never transferred his citizenship elsewhere should be considered an American-born American, as should his children in perpetuity. Writing in this late era, it is already transparent why the latter title has been denied to him, in stark contrast to those young classmates of his whose parents had fled from Bosnia or Lebanon: it is because he is yellow, and has, by that token alone, inherited enough of a degree of rejection and alienation to trail him for his entire life. The sadness is compounded by the following fact:
ABCs are not Chinese. The phrase American-born Chinese employs American-born as the modifier and Chinese as the noun. Thus, it implies that the subject is mainly a Chinese, albeit, one who has undergone an incidental and American birth. Even a basic review of the facts, if people bothered to review them, would invalidate this judgement. ABCs are, in fact, most distinctly American, from the legal, educational, and linguistic perspectives. To call these people Chinese is to imply that people of the yellow race are Perpetual Foreigners. It also implies, to the speaker's detriment, that the speaker does not assign much importance to the law, to education, and to the English language, or else he would have accorded precedence to those categories when referring to his subject. By this reasoning, it is also demonstrated that all those Americans who, in the past, have supported the notion of Perpetual Foreignership ought to be rightly regarded as dismissive of education, and contemptuous of legal realities. This being their true nature, it falls upon people of the better sort to protest against their behavior. Of course, yellow Americans who perpetuate the term ABC, of which there are many, are similarly guilty. Likewise, when we leave America and cross the Pacific, the following fact is found to be rather significant:
PRC people should even less employ the term ABC in the midst of Chinese-language discourse. The acronym ABC has unfortunately become popular, in fact ubiquitous, over in the PRC, where it is used with a rather obvious tone of denigration, though the speakers may initially deny it. This is because the term ABC when used in the Chinese language (arguably, in the English language as well) is unquestionably a slang-term, as opposed to a term which is suitable for usage in formal contexts. The use of a slang-term to refer to a demographic is necessarily rude. This is not to mention, the use of English acronyms should not be necessary in the course of a Chinese conversation. Sad to say, PRC people have a rationale for this phenomenon. In their view, the more formal and respectful term "mei-ji-hua-ren" (meaning a person of Chinese race with American citizenship) should be reserved for the first-generation only, while the second and latter generations, being, in their eyes, highly contemptible, should be addressed using the more derogatory label. To me this seems slightly improper, as it was the first generation which deliberately abandoned their country - if anyone deserves sympathy, it ought to be the children who had no choice in the matter. In any case, the use of slang is unbecoming of any discussion which aims to be sober and logical. It is therefore my wish that PRC people would kindly reconsider their choice of words down the road.
Overall, the term American-born Chinese has been observed to be widely employed in the following contexts: (1) by first-generation Americans of Chinese descent wishing to deride the second generation, including their own children; (2) by second-generation Americans of Chinese descent who practice self-denigration in the hope that this will cause others to like them more, which is sadly a widespread phenomenon of its own; (3) by Americans in general, mainly those who live in areas with large numbers of East Asian immigrants, for instance California; (4) by citizens of China, many of whom openly profess disdain for second-generation Americans of Chinese descent, while not bearing a grudge at all against the first generation, this amnesty being given despite that the larger part of members of the first generation actively hold Chinese society in contempt and proudly flaunt their American citizenship.
The United States has unfortunately been, for a long time, a country where people are categorized by their racial origin first and foremost. Before the 1970s, the European minorities such as the Irish Americans, Italian Americans, and Polish Americans would be frequently referred to as simply Irish, Italian, and Polish, with scarce recognition given to their American upbringing and education. In the present day, people of European origin no longer encounter this sort of problem, but it persists for those of other minorities. But as always, the aim of Sino American Reunion is not to encourage Americans of Chinese descent to engage in political agitation and to contend with the other racial groups of the United States for an increased share of influence. Rather, it is to remind them that returning to East Asia is still an option. Even if they do not fit in perfectly in East Asia, if they marry a citizen and have children, the children can avoid ever having to contend with the strain of being a stranger to their civilization, least of all an unwelcome stranger in an era of ongoing terrorism and school-shootings. As for whether a more concise term than "American of Chinese descent" should exist for our demographic, I believe that the term Chinese American is acceptable, and indeed it is already being used in numerous contexts. However, I wish to advance my preference for the term Sino American for the following reasons: not only is it shorter to write, but also, the pattern is analogous to the existing terms Anglo-American and Mesoamerican. The promotion of the term Sino American, along with Sino Canadian, Sino Australian, and so forth, also forces people to reduce their usage of the word Chinese in a racial context, and to start reconsidering the accomplishments and merits of the newly resurgent Chinese state.
Sino Americans, as it stands, are forced to contend with an inconvenient and depraved social standing: in the PRC, they are viewed as possessing neither the advantages of true Americans nor of Chinese citizens, while in America, they suffer from resentment, from exceedingly unflattering stereotypes, from the glass ceiling, and from the image of Perpetual Foreignership. At the very least, we need to ask for our share of civility when dealing with both of these privileged, mainstream demographics. The fact that the very term used to designate us is so flawed, as demonstrated above, reflects the truth that Sino Americans are oppressed on a daily basis by a web of abuses and a fractal of conceits. This semantic burden is simply too much to bear in light of our patient perseverances, and we have already endured it for too long.
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