I used to get highly annoyed by #hashtags to the point where I posted an #ihatehashtags hashtag! But now I can see the benefit in them; you can easily find people, or groups with similar interests by doing a hashtag search. There are currently so many highly popular and controversial hashtags: #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, and #timesup. One that I’ve been seeing more frequently as the electoral debates have started is the #iamanimmigrant hashtag. Do a search, you’ll see it everywhere.
What thoughts come up in your mind when you think of immigrants? Do you think of “the wall”? Do you conjure images of the migrants walking towards our southern borders? Refugees in boats trying to escape war-torn countries? Do you think of the Mexican or Guatemalan that does lawn maintenance in your community? Do you think of the Vietnamese lady that does your nails? These are broad generalizations but are a part of our society.
As an immigrant myself, I’ve started examining my own thoughts and feelings on immigration. Where do I stand? How do I feel about immigration reform? This post is by no means a political one; I am not going to tell you how you should vote, or why. Not at all. But I want people to start thinking and talking about this very important topic.
For me, it immediately conjures up thoughts on racism. Are people who are opposed to immigration racists? I am sure some of them are but I don’t believe they are all racist. As human beings we all have biases; it’s part of our nature. Can we change our biases? Yes, but first you have to acknowledge, and be aware, that you have them! What is a bias? A bias is a relatively unconscious and relatively automatic feature of prejudiced judgment and social behavior. From Beres, Derek, “”Yes, Implicit Bias Exists – No, That Doesn’t Make You Racist””, bigthink.com . Here’s a simple example of an implicit bias: you look at two images of women; you gravitate towards the woman you think is more beautiful. That is an unconscious and automatic response that we learn just by experiencing life.
I remember when I first came to this country, a one man said to me, “you’re Canadian aren’t you?” How did he know? Canadians don’t look any different than Americans but I quickly learned that we speak and act differently even though there are many similarities. I was often told that Canadians are Americans. What? No we are most certainly not.
Immediately after that incident I began to work on getting rid of my “Canadian” accent and to assimilate into this country’s culture. I didn’t want to stand out as an immigrant, as an outsider; I wanted to fit in and being a caucasian definitely made it easy, #whiteprivilege (another wonderful hashtag…insert snide remark here).
I only had one incident with an American woman that was about me being an immigrant. Again, as a caucasian, it was easy to assimilate based solely on how I looked. It happened at work, with someone I saw every day! She knew I was an immigrant and she said straight to my face that American jobs should go to American people. I respect her honesty, better to know where I stand, and my response to her was, “many immigrants that I know work so much harder than many of the Americans around here”, or something to that effect.
Americans are one of the most privileged people in the world and many of them feel a sense of entitlement. As an immigrant, I have gravitated a lot to other immigrants; I relate to them more than most American-born people even if they’re not from the same country as I am. I remember several years back working in a retail store and we were all immigrants. The owner was from Israel, I was from Canada, we had a girl from Croatia, one from Argentina, one from Trinidad, one from Guyana, and several other countries. These girls worked hard! They were always on time or early, they never complained about any task that was asked of them, they worked overtime if asked, and we became a tight-knit group. During my tenure there I hired one American girl who consistently showed up late, sat around whenever she could, and then one weekend she didn’t show up at all. I fired her when she finally did show up for a shift and she was actually surprised! #entitled
I’m not saying all Americans are lazy, show up late to work, and take their jobs for granted but this one girl certainly did. I’ve been in this country for 20 years and I’ve certainly seen my share of them.
Should immigrants assimilate to the American culture? I think they should to a certain degree; I mean, if you live in this country you have to understand the traffic laws, how the healthcare system and school systems works, how the government and judicial systems works, and speaking English will help you out tremendously. But if you want to wear clothing that is culturally appropriate for you, practice your religion, or eat the foods that you are used to, you should definitely be allowed to do so.
I love learning about other cultures and the best way to do that is from a person from whatever country you want to learn about. Some of the best experiences I’ve had are with people from other countries.
- I’ve attended a mundan ceremony at my Hindu friend’s home. The mundan, is performed during the first or third year of a child’s life; it is done in the belief that it purifies the child. It was beautiful! I got to wear a sari, given to me by my friend, we ate delicious Indian food, and we were all blessed by the Hindu priest.
- I was once invited to the home of my Palestinian client where, again, the food was incredible and the hospitality was palpable. Best lamb I’ve ever eaten!
- When I lived in Canada, my best friend was from the Azores (a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean that are a part of Portugal). Her family, culture, and food again were amazing! If you love pastries, please try some Portuguese queijadas or Portuguese sweet bread. OMG! Delicious!
I think we should all reach out to people who are not from this country and try to learn something about their culture. Reach out to someone who is from another race, or another religion; ask them questions and learn about who they are as a person. You would be surprised how many people don’t even venture outside of their community. I’ve met people who live in West Palm Beach, Florida who have never been outside the state of Florida; I’ve met some who have never even been to Miami; it’s a 90 minute drive. This blows my mind!
Venture out, meet new people, share a meal with them; you will see that they want the same things that you do. They want security for their families; they want to survive and to thrive; they want to give their children better opportunities; and we all want to be accepted for who we are.