Monday, January 30, 2017

Parenthood: Week 189 – Dear Ollie, Descendant of Immigrants

Dear Ollie,

You are many things. You are a son, a learner, a musician and a cook. You are a boy, a Midwesterner, an artists and a reader. You are Asian American, you are a grandson, you are a nephew and you are a good friends. There are many different parts of your identity that will evolve as you get older. Some parts of your identity will be more important to you at different times of your life. With everything that is happening in our world, I wanted to talk to you about one of the most important parts of your identity: descendant of immigrants.

America is a nation made up of immigrants. While this is something that most Americans acknowledge, it is not a part of most people’s identity that they have to confront. Your hair, beautiful mixtures of your mother’s hair and mine, your expressive eyes, and the color of your skin, a gentle light brown tone that glows with other shades, are things that represent your heritage. These are parts of you that connect you to your ancestors and millions of people of people in Taiwan, Wales and Poland. In your face there is all of them. There are so few people like you on this world and this makes you special and important.

Unfortunately, what makes you so unique, is also what will mark you to others as an descendant of immigrants and no matter what you do, this label will never leave you. It’s not fair. A person who is an immigrant from Germany for example could have a kid and if they don’t have a German accent, no one would ever ask them where they are from or label them as an “other.” But you, a second-generation descendant of immigrants, will never be allowed to forget the fact that you came from another country.

This isn’t fair and this has frustrated me at many times in my life. However, I’ve grown to embrace this fact, being connected to immigrants, knowing this part of yourself and never letting it go, makes you a better person, a better citizen and a better American.

Your great grandmother, your Nana, and your great grandfather and my parents came to America for a reason. They wanted something better for their lives, a place that would have more opportunity, a place that they could live free, and a place that they could make their own lives. It would have been easier in many ways for them to stay in their country of origin, but they took a chance, leaned into the difficulty and struggled.

You are a result of them overcoming fear, facing adversity with dignity, and never giving up on the dream, the idea that they could make for you a life filled with opportunity and freedom. You should always be proud of this, proud of their work, and proud that you are connected to immigrants.

People who base the choices in their lives on this immigrant pride work to make others have more freedom and more opportunity. Because in never forgetting that we come from immigrants, we embrace the immigrant identity in all of us. This reminds us that we are living the dream of our ancestors and that we have a responsibility to make that dream a reality for others.

I am proud to be an immigrant’s son and it makes me sad that others would hide behind irrational fear to make choices to keep wonderful people from becoming American immigrants. It makes me sad that some Americans value other people’s freedom less so they are willing to restrict their ability to have their family members travel from other countries and share their lives together.

These choices are made because they embrace their sense of Americanism and forget that they come from immigrants. The truth about being American is very different. To be an American is to never forget that you come from immigrants and to be proud of that fact. If you forget the struggle of immigration, in the past and in the present, than you have lost sight of the most important stories in America that bring our country its pride, its meaning and its identity.

The American dream does not live in our country, it’s lives in those who fight and strive to become American immigrants.

Always be proud of being a descendant of immigrants as I am proud of you. There is a lot of confusion and fear right now, and I promise I’ll do everything I can to make it better for you. It’s my identity as an immigrants’ son that brings me inspirations, pride and a reminder of the dream that has become a reality in your smile.


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