I’m an immigrant. Growing up, I always heard stories about how Americans view other countries’ cultures. In a land far away, everything seems wrapped in a fantasy nothing could be that bad. I was in love with America and refused to believe anything, but the good in it, like a relationship you are too involved to see the bad things about it. Not until after the last presidential election that it reality hit me.
Watching the news, I was always trying to see the good in people, trying to understand their reasons why, but it was more and more difficult than I could ever ask for. All the news media outlets divided into good or bad, nice versus evil, Christian versus Non-Christians, whites versus people of color, workers versus unemployed. Too much information coming from all the directions, hard to keep the focus of what was on stake.
The election winner gave voice to people that didn’t need to be heard. What Mr. Trump showed us, the foreigners, the “bad hombres”, is that we shouldn’t be here. His immigrant wife yes, her immigrant family yes. My family, no. With all the hatred speeches, Mr. President unleashed the “White Christian Man” and gave them the power of sovereignty. The power of “my land, my roots, I work hard, don’t invade my land”. Even though they are not Native Americans, someone immigrated for them to be here, they invaded the land too. Unless you spend years trying to get asylum or a visa for your entire family, you must not be here. Unless also, you work for a restaurant under the table and they don’t pay taxes on you, after all, you don’t even exist here. You exist if you raise your voice, or try to get any help. From whoever. The White Christian man will point fingers and raise his voice. How dare you, ask for help? I don’t need YOUR help. Yes, you do.
Some months ago, my husband I went out for dinner with what I like to call “The White Christian Man”, who was looking for a business partner for his Chiropractic clinic, some phone calls back and forth and my husband takes me to the meeting. We sat like we were ready for the green card interview, he was on the seating in front of us, The White Man asked me questions that I was highly uncomfortable to answer. Heck, I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t eat my food, what never happens. When kept locking eyes with me, the white man asked me first if I was Christian, and if I was in the same church designation as my husband. I told him I believed in Jesus, but I don’t like designations, it only works to separate people. First strike. He kept going and asked me if I and my husband liked to drink alcohol. I said I did, why not? A reminder that this man is white, Christian, about 70 years old, from Texas. He then said he didn’t drink because his entire family was alcoholics. Strike two. After ordering the food, which the level of comfortableness was hitting the ceiling by now, he asked me how did I get here, meaning probably wanted to know if I had a visa or something. That story my friends, is what drives them insane.
Trying not be specific about my life, neither did I wanted to give him a chance to say anything bad, like “you shouldn’t be here”, because the The White Man would, I briefly explained that I came over to study English as a second language, bonded with the teacher, decided to stay longer and end up marrying the teacher. Whom I’m still married, who also decided to take me to face my biggest fear. Seating face to face to Mr. President’s voter. I saw the angst in that men’s eyes. He was silent, like he was examining everything I had said. I look at my nachos, like it was my salvation. The rest of dinner was me drinking that flat coke, and hoping he didn’t make me any other question.
On our way to say goodbyes after dinner, right when we were leaving the restaurant, he looks at me and says “The girl who works here is from Venezuela” and he kept going “There are a lot of Mexicans around here. You would like it”. Of course, I would like it, they are the best people in the world, heck, I rather Mexicans than my own people. I didn’t understand why he was putting us out in the same box. Suddenly, it hits me. That’s right. I guess his Christianity makes him separate people by category. The good, the bad, the churchgoers, non-goers, the poor and the rich, the black and the whites. It’s the same way Mr. President does. Yelling that we shouldn’t be here, only aggravates the ones who believe we shouldn’t. The entitlement was clear.
When we left the restaurant, I had that feeling of how unwelcoming certain people make you feel. We see on TV all the time, it happens with people of color on a regular basis, and it needs to stop immediately. It’s certain that happens with me and the girl who is from Venezuela too. Have you ever stop and thought how thankful we are to be here? How loyal we become to this land and how frustrated and sad we get when someone says we shouldn’t be here? Or we should wait in our countries and apply for a visa? A whole different scenario, if you think about immigration as a way to find establishment and possible joy in the way we live. Some of us are not lucky enough born in this country. Some of us decided later in life to be here, like me, and some of us come here as a child with the parents, like some of my friends. But ask us where do we prefer to live.
Another episode occurred, also in Texas, at the place where I was buying some fragrances to my spray around my new house. The cashier lady and my husband started to talking about Chicago and how the city is what is called a Sanctuary city, where immigrants can walk around free, without being harassed be ICE. She kept going and started talking about immigration laws, how California, which is also a sanctuary city shouldn’t allow immigrants, because they get benefits for free, like medical, food and all the basic needs, and she as a citizen, didn’t. Let’s recap. She said she couldn’t get benefits for free as a citizen. I don’t know who told her, that immigrants get food and medical for free. I never met a single one. Instead of that, I saw immigrant coworker, from Guatemala, working fourteen hours a day 6 days a week, because he needed the job at the restaurant to sustain himself and his family. In 2013, when my visa was about to expire, I slipped on Ice, back in Chicago. I was so scared of looking for a doctor, neither did I have the money to fix my wrist, so I decided I fixed it myself, with a wrist aid and chopsticks (don’t try this at home, look for a doctor). Popping ibuprofen like skittles, I was back at my job as a Server a week after, with a broken wrist.
I bet the lady from the store would have something better to tell, if that happened to her.
We didn’t get The White Man’s business. Not because of what happened, but because of different circumstances. I still think about how people like him keep making our lives as difficult as possible, and demanding changes loud and clear, voting what should we do with our bodies, or if we should be here or not. They are used to have their voices heard. What they are afraid of, is us taking over. We are not minority anymore and we are done being oppressed. My voice is getting loud too, deal with it.
PS: This was written last November, and after debating for months, I decided to post it.