Weekly The Generation, Year 1, Issue 14
December 05, 2023
By Zaki Shahariar Azam
First-generation Bengali Americans, especially Gen Z and Millennials, share a rich cultural heritage with Bengali immigrants, but their experiences are not identical. This distinction can sometimes lead to challenges in relating to Bengalis, particularly among the younger generations, including Gen Z and Millennials. In today’s media landscape, there’s a growing trend where individuals portray themselves as struggling minorities for attention and financial gain, especially on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. It’s important to highlight that some of these influencers may exaggerate their struggles, and their actions may inadvertently belittle the genuine hardships faced by many impoverished immigrant Bengalis.
It’s crucial to recognize that while some young Bengali Americans may grapple with their identity, the real struggles were often faced by their immigrant parents who came to the United States with little knowledge of the culture and way of life. This article does not intend to diminish the real struggles of Bengali families who are genuinely facing hardship; rather, it focuses on addressing the issue of privileged individuals attempting to portray themselves as victims.
It’s essential to acknowledge that the true pioneers of the Bengali American community were the first-generation immigrants, often referred to as “FOBs,” who arrived in a new land with limited understanding of American society. These individuals faced formidable challenges, including language barriers, adapting to a different culture, and often enduring financial hardships. Their experiences were marked by resilience and sacrifice, laying the foundation for their children’s opportunities in the United States.
However, there are very different struggles/experiences faced by these children of first-generation immigrants. For US-born first-generation South Asians, life often entails living with a dual identity. They may find it challenging to fully relate to the majority culture while also grappling with their place within the South Asian community. This tension can be isolating and lead to a sense of disconnection from both sides of their identity.
To garner pity and attention, privileged persons frequently depict themselves as victims on social media sites, using strategies such as selective storytelling and emotionally charged storylines. This trend can be seen in TikTok and Instagram influencers who use visually appealing content and targeted engagement analytics to create viral posts with thousands of likes.It’s important to name that overstating hardship isn’t exclusively a Bengali American issue; it spreads across all first-generation communities who have more privilege than the immigrants who came before them. However, I am focusing on younger Bengali Americans because I grew up in this culture; as a Gen Z immigrant, I noticed this pattern in the community firsthand after moving here.
Young Bengali Americans should wholeheartedly embrace their rich Bengali heritage, regardless of their level of engagement with the culture throughout their lives. Instead of exploiting their ethnicity on social media for attention and financial gain, they should takepride in their heritage and utilize their platforms to promote and celebrate their cultural identity. By doing so, they can bridge the gap between generations and present a positive image of their community. The true value lies not in victimhood but in the strength and resilience that have shaped their journey. If I could speak to those Bengali Americans who use victimhood as a source of making money, I’d encourage them to stop and accept themselves for the way they are. If they don’t, they’ll keep chasing something that’s inauthentic and not even them.