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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Raleigh Bailey, December 6, 2000. Interview K-0270. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Endurance of cultural traditions in the children of immigrants

Bailey contends that cultural traditions and identities tend to guide immigrant children as they consider their futures. For example, Cambodians from farming backgrounds rarely go to college and often take manual jobs out of high school; the more western-looking Vietnamese do the opposite. Despite this transgenerational consistency, Bailey sees second-generation immigrants struggling to balance the demands of tradition with the urge to succeed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Raleigh Bailey, December 6, 2000. Interview K-0270. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA LAU:
How could you describe some of the different choices that kids who were facing that situationߞwhat kind of different choices do they make about who they are? I mean, right, some go to college. Some don't. Some lean in one direction. I'm curious what you've observed.
RALEIGH BAILEY:
Again, it's a little bit cultural. Most of the Khmer or most of the Cambodians don't go to college. Most of their parents were rice farmers and were put right into factories, and do not have much of a support system to go into college. And I think that's proving to be true for most of the Montagnards. There are exceptions. The Vietnamese came in with a much stronger motivation to westernize, probably because of their exposure to the west, and probably formal education, at least the group who came, was a much higher priority of families, so you see more Vietnamese going to school. If I generalized the say, like, African communities, I think we can do the same thing. If you're coming from an rural, impoverished environment, harsh times, then probably you're going to move into factory work. If you're from a family that has very high educational expectations, you follow that.
BARBARA LAU:
How do you think that affects people personally, trying to balance that, trying to live in both worlds?
RALEIGH BAILEY:
Well, I think it is a generational thing. I think this generation that's just now reaching adulthood are pivotal with the Southeast Asians. They're the ones that are holding both together, and it's very difficult. Butof course, I deal with the people who are successful. Tthey are very successful because they're really highly motivated, and they have access to both worlds.
BARBARA LAU:
Can you expand on what you mean, they're holding both sides together?
RALEIGH BAILEY:
They're accommodating their parents in traditional values and trying hard to maintain traditional ways, and they're going to college and pursuing professional careers.
BARBARA LAU:
And what have you observed? What toll does that take on them?
RALEIGH BAILEY:
I'm sure it's stressful.