Refugees, Trauma and coping
Thereare numerous factors that motivate or force Asian to migrate to theUnited States. While some have moved into America in search for theAmerican dream, there are a significant number of refugees especiallyfrom East Asia moving into the United States. Due to the politicalinstabilities in the South East Asia, the violence and militaryactivities has resulted into mass influx of refugees from the region.It is estimated that there are over one million Asian refugees in theUnited States, mainly from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Majority ofthese refugees suffer from stress and other mental disorders as aresult of the exposure to traumatizing events in their homecountries. Majority of the refugees have experienced extremeviolence, torture, mass murder and great human suffering. As a resultof these tribulations, the settlement of refugees in American is verydistinct compared to other immigrants from Asian countries. Accordingto studies conducted among the Asian refugees arriving in the UnitedStates, over fifty percent of the refugees have experienced death orbrutal separation from their families. The pathways through which theAsian refugees go through while moving into the United States is anillustration of the difference between Asian immigrants and refugees.For example, a student immigrant from China may take one year toprepare to move into the United States. On the other hand, when thecommunists took over Southeast Asia, some refugees had a few hours toprepare to relocate. Fleeing the trouble Cambodia, Laos and Vietnamled to separation from families and unwarranted trauma. Compared toimmigrants due to other reasons, the refugees have to undergo aseries of intermediary steps before they can settle in the UnitedStates. This includes living in temporary camps in the border. Somerefugees have taken up to three years to resettle in the UnitedStates. The experiences in these camps also contribute to the traumaand stress associated with food shortage, poor living conditions,diseases and human suffering (Tewari and Alvarez, 441).
Thereare various coping strategies associated with trauma and stress amongAsian refugees. It is important to note that majority of thesestrategies are more applicable among the acculturated refugeescommunity compared to other refugees suffering from trauma and stressassociated with financial burden, family, post immigration trauma andsocial support trauma. This is mainly due to the specialcharacteristics of the acculturated refugees’ community. Somerefugees find it difficult to adjust to the new way of life due amongother factors their level of literacy and job related skills whichresults into acculturated stress. Some refugees are required to learnnew languages since they lack proficiency in English and acquire newjob skills as a means of coping with the stress associated with thenew life (Tewari and Alvarez 441). For example, in the film Death ofa Shaman, the real challenges of South East Asian refugees suffer inthe United States as a result of the conditions in which they areforced to relocate. After the beginning of the Vietnam War, the Mienpeople were forced to relocate to the United States in Kansas wherethey found it difficult to cope with the new way of life. Althoughtheir life in the mountainous Vietnam was very fulfilling, it isprimitive compared to life in the developed world. As a result, theysuffered for over two decades as a result of extreme poverty andracial discrimination resulting into antisocial behaviors such ascrime and drug abuse (Deathof a Shaman). These coping strategies may not be applicable to the more skilledand educated refugees. It is also important to note that theAmerican culture is very different from the Asian culture.Acculturated refugees are less likely to fit into the new way of lifeand adopt the American culture. Thus, more supportive programs arerequired to reduce incidences of culture shock. Asian refugees movinginto the United States have also suffered from culture bound syndromewhich has affected their transition. Culture bound syndromes such asHwa-byung may result into serious physical and psychological problems(Tewari and Alvarez 441).
Transition out of marginality
Oneof the most discussed and researched issue in the United States isthe issue of race. The race and social attitudes towards racialidentity has been one of the most persistent issues throughouthistory. Over the years, interracial marriages have been in theincrease which has significantly affected the identities of the AsianAmerican society. This has led to the emergence of mixed raced,multiracial and non racial identities within the Asian Americansociety as well as other races living in the United States. However,the historical, appearance and heritage differences between differentracial groups and generations have had major contributions in theracial identities. For example, an individual who was raised in astrong Taiwan culture and tradition is more likely to be ethnically aTaiwan. But if the individual was not seen by others as a TaiwanAmerican, he is less likely to have an Asian racial identity.Therefore, the racial identities can be considered to be socialconstructs. For example, some people have mixed raced identities.These are individuals who acknowledge and identify with both theirracial and ethnic heritage. For example, a person can identifyhimself as a Chinese Italian indicating both the racial and ethicheritage. Other individuals have adopted multiracial identities wheretheir identities emphasize on their multiracial affiliations. Theseindividuals do not identify with any specific racial group. Somepeople have also adopted non racial identities where they decide notto subscribe to any racial identity. These individuals aim atdeconstructing the social racial construct that is associated withnegative racial biasness. There are several factors that influencethe racial identities adopted by an individual, key among them theinfluence of the environment, family and the individual perceptionabout race (Tewari and Alvarez 381).
Traditionally,Asian migrated into the United States as a family where children wereaccompanied by their parents. However, in the recent immigrationtrends, an increased number of children are moving into the UnitedStates unaccompanied by their parents to study in the United States.These minors mainly from South Korea and Taiwan are commonly referredto as parachute kids. These minors live with their relatives in thenew country or under a paid caregiver. There are many factors thatresults into parachute kids, among them the unrest and politicalinstabilities in Asia countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.However, the single most important reason for migration ofunaccompanied Asia minors into the United States has been the searchfor better educational opportunities. Despite the high value ofeducation in the Asian countries, there are relatively feweducational opportunities compared to the United States and otherdeveloped countries. Due to professional and business ties at homeamong other factors, parents of parachute kids are unable to relocatewith their children to the United States. There are numerouschallenges that are faced by parachute children as well as astronautchildren. This includes both physical and emotional challengesassociated with transnational immigration as well as parentalabsence. Although the children are able to attain some level ofindependence at a very early age, which has positive impacts in theiradult life, loneliness and homesick is rampant. In addition, withoutproper monitoring and guidance, there is a higher likelihood thatparachute kids will adopt antisocial and undesirable behaviors suchas drug abuse, gambling and developmental disorders. The parachutekids are also greatly influenced by the networks of peers theydirectly interact with (Tewari and Alvarez 365).
Deathof a Shaman,Directed by Fahm Fong Seeyang. (2004)
Tewari,Nita and Alvarez, Alvin N. (2012). AsianAmerican Psychology: Current Perspectives,New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Group. Print.