brandon and justin

interview

We met Staten Island college students slash brothers from Staten Island Brandon and Justin in Hmart Edison for a conversation on Chinese-American heritage. They tell us about generational gaps, vent about bystanders to hate crimes, and share some of their college experience.   

Samantha: If we could get started by getting both your names and cultural background?

 

Brandon: I'm Brandon, and I'm Chinese, uh... twenty-one years old. Born in America, so I'm an ABC. Um, yeah, I don't really know what you guys want to hear.

 

Samantha: (laughs) Okay, that's good for now. (to Justin) And you?

 

Justin: I'm Justin Chung. I'm eighteen and I was born in America, so I'm considered an ABC too. 

 

Samantha: Today, do you still feel connected to your culture? Or is something that you don't really engage with anymore?

 

Brandon: Um, I care, but not as much as how other Chinese people do. Since I'm basically surrounded by a bunch of diverse people, so I don't really see myself as part of one culture besides basically knowing about it, not too deep where I'm religious or anything like that, you know what I mean?

 

Serena: Yeah.

 

Brandon: Like I'm an atheist, I don't believe in like Buddhism or anything like that. (to Justin) But him too, I feel like you don't care about any of that too, right?

 

Justin: I'm gonna be honest, I don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

 

Brandon: We're not religious! You're atheist too! 

 

Justin: I know we're atheist. 

 

Serena: (laughs) I'm Buddhist, actually. But how about other ways to connect to your culture? Do you speak Chinese, eat Chinese food, all that? 

 

Brandon: Oh yeah, I went to Chinese school for two years!

 

Serena: Not fun, right?

 

Brandon: Yeah. He didn't even go to Chinese school. He just learned by watching Chinese shows when he was young. But if we tried to have a conversation with him, he doesn't really know how to respond back.

 

Serena: (laughs)

 

Justin: Yeah, I'd have to say, like, "I don't understand you, can you translate that," or....

 

Brandon: He knows how to curse though! That's it.

Serena: No, but it's so hard for me to communicate with my grandparents sometimes. And Chinese school was just not fun.

 

Brandon: Are you guys both Chinese?

 

Both: Yeah.

 

Justin: No, they're fucking Korean or something—

 

Brandon: I'm just asking, damn. It was just a question, oh my god!

 

Samantha: Okay, no, good question, thank you. Does that ever create conflict with your parents? Because I know at least many immigrants, including my parents, care very much about tradition and preserving culture. 

 

Brandon: Oh, yeah. Our parents are kind of traditional, yeah. They're pretty much against people we want to date. We can be friends with them, but I guess dating or marrying is just like a different story than that.

Samantha: Do you think that's something you're going to listen to and respect? Or do you think--

 

Brandon: I'm just there to listen, that's it. But I'm not doing it.

 

Serena: (laughs)

 

Brandon: I'm just doing what I feel like I want to do and it feels right, then, yeah.

 

Samantha: (to Justin) Do you feel the same?

 

Justin: Yeah.

 

Brandon: If they don't like it, they can... they can keep do their thing and keep digging at it. I'm twenty-one, you can't stop me from anything like that.

 

Serena: Our final question is regarding all the recent violence against Asian-Americans and the eruption of racism in general. How do you guys feel about that and how has your family responded?

 

Justin: It's like kind of disgusting because you hate seeing these people go down, especially elderly people getting targeted like everyday, by people younger than them.

 

Brandon: They're taking advantage of like majority of the seniors and the younger people, you know? Like the kids, especially. I don't know if you guys recently saw the news; in Chinatown, in New York City, some woman randomly got beat up by a random guy on the street, he just, like, snuffed her. And then there were these two Asian boys in the back who just turned around and looked—they didn't do anything. I was disgusted by even like men in our own culture and there's just like, are you even a man? Just like, you let that happen? Seeing your own kid get knocked out by someone else? I'm just like, bro, they're like... I don't know if I can curse for this.

 

Samantha and Serena: Go for it.

 

Brandon: They're just pussies. Like if I were them, I would just confront the person. Like you're such a pussy, you're gonna let that other person harass your own kind because you're getting taken advantage of? That's fucked up.

 

Serena: Yeah I think there's a lot of that notion, you guys mentioned that your parents are kind of traditional. So they're like keep your head down and whatever.

 

Samantha: Yeah, I agree that Asian kids are also okay with the stereotype of being submissive. But I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that that's not you?

 

Brandon: Yeah. If someone bullies you, just walk it off. There's no need to cause that much drama. But this is different, right?

 

Samantha: Of course. I forgot to ask at the beginning, where are you guys from?

 

Justin: Staten Island.

 

Samantha: Oh, cool. And you're in college, right?

 

Brandon: I have one more year and I'm graduated. (to Justin) He just graduated high school. Honestly, I'm doing real estate, so you don't really need college for that, but...

 

Samantha: But college is fun, right?

 

Brandon: I'm in a fraternity, so like what I've learned is that you want to be part of something. You go to college, even if it doesn't matter for your job, you should take advantage of the best four years of your life. Because after that you're just going to be on your own, being busy, making money. You don't have that same kind of life when you're in the real world.

 

Samantha: (laughs) Sorry, nothing against frats. 

 

Brandon: Yeah, yeah, I know. But the message I'm trying to get across is be outgoing, right? Be social.