An American-born Chinese or "ABC" is a person born in the United States of Chinese ethnic descent, a category of Chinese American. Many, but not all, are second-generation born (parents who are naturalized U.S. citizens are considered first-generation by most scholars) after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 relaxed limits on immigration from East Asia. Because their parents often came from academic or professional backgrounds, ABCs as a group tend to be better educated (with at least an undergraduate college degree) than the general population. As a result, they are stereotyped within the U.S. as a bookish model minority, with considerable talents in math and science. However, this stereotype overlooks the poor and blue-collar ABCs that exist, as well as the older communities of Chinese that came before the Chinese Exclusion Act was instated. Taken as a whole, much of ABC community was found to have largely assimilated in the US, their level of education fitting more in line with the general U.S. population.
ABCs were found to assimilate as rapidly into the American culture as other previous generation immigrants, such as the Irish and the Italians. They also were less likely to know Chinese. In some first-generation households, ABCs may be able to speak the Chinese dialect of their parents, but may not know how to read or write Chinese. The majority of American-born Chinese children, however, are fully fluent English speakers. Today, many young ABCs rarely speak any Mandarin Chinese or other Chinese dialects. Usually, only the children of immigrants speak Chinese daily at home. Some parents have taken steps to ensure their children retain ties to their heritage, such as sending them to Chinese school.
The connection ABCs have with the Chinese culture is varied, depending very much on the area where they live. The coastal areas on both sides of the United States tend to have strong Chinese communities, due to large Chinese populations and continuing immigration from Chinese speaking countries, allowing ABCs to maintain stronger connection with Chinese culture. In middle America, where Chinese communities are more sporadic, the ABCs assimilate into the mainstream more quickly. Assimilated latter generation Chinese Americans may often adopt a broader pan-Asian American identity. The large Asian American population in Hawaii is an example of such a community.
One institution well-known among ABCs is the Overseas Chinese Youth Language Training and Study Tour to the Republic of China, almost always referred to as "the Love Boat." It is a summer program sponsored by the Taiwanese government whose explicit purpose is to teach overseas Chinese about Chinese culture but, just as importantly, to allow ABCs the opportunity to establish romantic attachments with other ABCs.
Representations in media
Traditionally, Asian Americans have not been well-represented in mainstream media. Martial artist Bruce Lee, a native of San Francisco, is the foremost icon of the middle-America's view of Asian Americans. Before Bruce Lee came onto the scene, Asians (women in particular) were mostly viewed as docile, obedient, and feminine. Asian men were regarded as asexual and powerless but hard-working as servants. Bruce Lee broke some of the stereotypes by demonstrating that they can be tough and masculine; but in opening new doors, he created new stereotypes. This time, the stereotype was that all Chinese men know Kung Fu or other forms of martial arts. Although their characters may be heroes in movies, they never seem to "get the girl" at the end.
Jackie Chan and Jet Li, among other martial artists and actors, follow Bruce Lee's modus operandi by acting in movies involving martial arts. Many Asian Americans, including Chinese Americans, have privately complained that they never have the chance to extend beyond their typical acting roles because directors and movie producers typecast them.
There are few women actresses being of Asian descent who become famous for their work. Examples include Lucy Liu, who starred in the Charlie's Angels movies and the television series Ally McBeal. The first American movie with an all-Asian main cast was Better Luck Tomorrow, produced by MTV Movies.