"Go back to where you came from!"
"Immigrants are taking our jobs!"
"Immigrants will cause the downfall of America."
These are things that a lot of us, immigrants, hear on a daily basis. What do we do about it? Or at least what I do about it? Well, I keep my head down and ignore it. Why? you ask. Why do I not speak up for myself?
Well because I'm afraid. I am afraid of the fact that despite being a hardworking, legal resident of this country, I will become a physical target for people who resent our existence. I am afraid that someone might just throw a rock at me. I am afraid that someone might shove me or punch me. The worst part of it all is that if someone were to do those things, I still wouldn't put up a fight. You're probably thinking, "What the fuck is wrong with her?' If someone is attacking her, verbally or physically, she should just fight back. 'Self-defense!"
The reason I said what I said and did what I did is because that is what was taught to me. My parents and I immigrated here 8 years ago and lived in the midwest. I was 12. On my first day of middle school, my dad told me to avoid any and all conflicts at all costs. "If someone is yelling obscenities at you, especially pertaining to your ethnicity, just exit the scene. Don't say anything, don't bring attention to yourself. Just leave and come home. I don't want you to get hurt." For the first few weeks in the country, I did exactly what he said. I didn't really think to question his judgment. Dad knows best, I thought.
But as months went by I questioned his words. Why can't I stand up for myself? Ever since I was a kid my parents told me to speak up for myself and for others facing injustice. Why is it that now dad changed his beliefs? I began reading the news and then started to notice the hatred towards immigrants. It scared me. I then realized why my dad was always so paranoid and always asked me to lay low.
I kept my mouth shut and my head low after seeing a couple of racist fights in school. But then... High School came around. I was introduced to Twitter. I was introduced to Instagram.
And voila! My life was changed forever.
Never had I seen such outspoken views about the positives of immigration. Never had I seen the light shine so brightly over the idea of how freaking great we are! I saw people my age go to protests, make banners, fight for the rights we deserve.
When I told people that I came from a different country, instead of seeing utter disdain on their face, all I heard was, "That's so cool! What differences did you find between America and your home country?" It made me feel appreciated. For once I didn't feel like an outcast.
From that day on I was more vocal about my thoughts and beliefs on immigration policies. I stood up for innocent, hardworking people being targeted just because they came from different countries.
So now here is what I believe it means to be an immigrant in the United States of America.
Wanting the best for your family.
To every immigrant out there,
Never be ashamed of yourself. Keep your head up and work with pride. You are wanted, loved, and needed in this country!