Stephanie Nadi Olson starts every morning with baba’s voice in her ear.
Their father-daughter chats begin around 5 a.m., and by the time they hang up, Ramadan Nadi has polished off a cup of coffee and Stephanie Nadi Olson is ready to hunker down in her home office.
“I try to keep him posted on what’s happening in my life because I don’t want him to feel disconnected,” she said.
Nadi Olson credits her father with shaping her worldview through long talks centered around his life in Palestine, and lessons he’s learned as a refugee. Those anecdotes have resulted in the Atlanta native developing a sense of community, and a strong desire to give back.
And she’s not alone.
Children of immigrants are often influenced by their parents’ past to contribute to their communities, according to Nicole Guidotti, an English and Latinx studies professor at Emory University.
She said it’s typical for people who’ve lived in places with economic, gender, racial and religious disparities to rely on strong communal ties for survival — and those bonds and those traditions “don’t stop when somebody leaves their home country.”
“I think it’s twofold. One, it’s the dose of privilege like, I have benefited from my parents or my parents’ immigration and therefore I am not just giving back but I am giving back to my parents in a way that honors their legacy,” Guidotti said. “And I also think when we’re talking about Asian and Latinx second generation immigrants, who are the majority, we’re talking about communities that have a strong sense of benevolence and sharing.”
Second generation refers to people with at least one foreign-born parent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while first generation refers to people who are foreign-born.
Some children of immigrants will reflect on their childhoods at some point and recognize the inequalities they personally experienced, along with their families, and realize “it didn’t have to be that way, my family didn’t have to have limited access to resources they experienced,” said Helen Kim, an assistant professor of American religious studies at Emory University.
“So often, I think second generations do try to go back and correct those systems,” Kim said, adding that this can be done through volunteer work, or taking jobs that provide access to resources.
Ensuring dignity for everyone