Many people, even those considered to be American citizens, can trace their origins and ancestry to other parts of the world. There are those like myself, however, whose parents came from another country and were immigrants to the United States.As a second-generation child with Polish parents, the differences between immigrant parents and citizen offspring can be great, as can the differences felt between immigrant children and second-generation children in the United States.
The status “born confused” can be attributed to those citizen offspring, such as myself, and seems appropriate because most may have been brought up with old-world views in a modern age. This can leave the “born confused” with feelings such as puzzlement and perplexity in relation to how to act, what to say or even how to live. It seems as if I am too European for America and too American for Europe. The question is, where exactly do we belong? How are we to establish ourselves in the world with such varied surroundings and backgrounds?
According to a 1996 National science Foundation article, one difference between immigrant children and second-generation children could be summed up: “When immigrant children arrive in the United States, they work hard and get good grades. Second-generation Americans – children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents – are another matter.”
This is an example of how many people don’t understand the position or mentality of second-generation children, which can vary a great deal from one person to the next. Academic achievements are insignificant when comparing immigrant children and second-generation children; both parties have the capacity to either do well or not for a variety of reasons, in which case, the comment seems irrelevant.
Some second-generation children don’t take much notice of their background, simply using it as a tidbit for stimulating conversation. A few might feel torn; they might sense a lack of acceptance from their homelands, their parents’ homelands or perhaps even both. Others play up their differences in their backgrounds to their advantage, connecting to both generations and nationalities. Or there can even be a combination of all three. Just as the human mind is complex and complicated, so can the same descriptions be said about second generation children’s stances about their descents.
I’m told I should consider myself totally Polish because of my European foundation, manners and outlook. Older generations explain that I am Polish on the inside and only American on paper but that living in America affects children no matter what their backgrounds. Still, others say I am American, and, though my ancestry may be European, it is not who I am in the present state. I could go anywhere in Europe and be labeled an American because that is what I am, both on paper and appearance. You can imagine the incredulousness I felt when no one could give me a straight, black-and-white answer.
There are only colorful answers regarding this subject.
My parents are Polish and so am I. The “blood” of the child does not change, though his or her birthplace or location might. Second-generation children may be deemed out of place, totally comfortable or quietly neutral. Their backgrounds can be regarded as disadvantages or advantages, curses or gifts. Our backgrounds are as important as we make it out to be for ourselves not for others.
Life itself is complicated and confusing, and what truly matters is how the individuals feel and regard themselves and their own heritage.
Ylona Cupryjak is a sophomore theatre major from Keller.