The person that I am today is nothing like the person I was when I didn’t live where I do now, or when I lived in my other house or when I went to my other school, etc. And it’s not a bad thing, but sometimes when we grow up immune to many struggles such as poverty, discrimination, and we aren’t aware of them, we don’t really learn to care about them. Of course I have struggled with something in life before, people have difficult times, but I’ve learned to see and acknowledge bigger and harder issues that other people do face everyday, and it’s not because they want to.
Most of the time people have to deal with injustices that have become their reality. Back home, I didn’t even know problems greater existed, yes part of it was because I was younger and my mom always sugar-coated things for me. Things were never too political. But as I’ve come to meet different people that are also immigrants or are minorities, they usually have struggled with bigger problems than me and some of them are younger children. The point however is that, we need to make ourselves aware of others and empathize with their experiences, sometimes we can both share our ideas and comments on the topic and there are times when we sit and listen because we don not experience this we do not know the repercussions or the feeling.
We have all been shaped by different experiences and we have different backgrounds. The way we think and act varies and can be very different to one another, but that in part makes us who we are. When we don’t face certain struggles for example, is harder to understand where someone is coming from or why they take certain things more personally, etc. In order to understand each other and see why certain things might be more meaningful, disrespectful, exciting, etc. We need to learn how to empathize and to accept each other, with that comes being held accountable for our actions and doing something to change the way we handle this situations. Different people experience things differently. It is also our duty as citizens of this country to help each other and make this community a more accepting and tolerant one. The American ideal is to be free and to become whoever you want to be. Our duty is to help those who do not feel safe or comfortable in becoming who they want to be, not matter what gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexuality, ideology, everyone should be whoever they truly are. Becoming better allies to our American siblings, being political because we should be. If you ever sit down to talk to other people that do not look like you, you will come to find issues and perspective you didn’t even think of before. As a speaker in a Community Experts Roundtable I attended to said before, we need to go up to those who not look like us in order to start a conversation, because it matters.
Being comfortable talking about civic issues and politics might not be the most achibable thing, at least it’s not easy, but it is in fact necessary. Some of us as cisgender, white, “legal” immigrants, straight, men, etc. might have platforms that many others do not, this is where we step up and talk about issues that matter, for people who do not experience them as well, we can be a window to them. Of course because we do not experience these issues we can’t assume we know how it is like to live like this everyday; We don’t know what is like to deal with racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, if we do not belong to communities that face this oppression, but this is when we listen to their struggles and their experience, and we use this that they’re giving us to educate others and to see where they are coming from.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have been shaped by the diversity and greatness and issues of this country. I learned that my background wasn’t the only one that deserve recognition. That not because things weren’t easy for me they can’t be harder for others. It is extremely important to recognize this. Listening to my black classmates and friends I can understand problems like racial profiling and specially police brutality differently and actually see why this is important to them. We wouldn’t like to see any one from our family or neighborhood, or community to be at risk just because they “looked like they had” or “they looked like they were”. This is their reality most of the time, it is sad. If we can’t fight for everyone as a whole country and community, if we refuse to listen to those who need help, are we really doing the best to help our country and our future? Or are we instead doing the least in order to keep our mindset and ideas the way we were raised, or the way “it’s always been” because that is easier than speaking up. As youth, as adults raising the younger generations, as people who can grow and provide safe spaces for others, we can make microaggression and xenophobia less acceptable, and we shouldn’t be scared to stand up for what is wrong, even if the president of a country is against it, even if our parents are. We should listen to others and not just hear. It is our duty as the future, this is what we want for our children and others, we need to make this happen with smaller and bigger actions equally.
Closing the doors to immigrant children and letting them drown, “losing” immigrant children that ICE was supposedly taken into custody, calling them slurs, having their parents struggle even harder, and treating people of color like they are not human beings, is beyond disgusting and far from the real American ideals. Standing up for injustice, rights, and demanding better protection, is not. It is not fun to grow up, as a kid regardless of race or ethnicity and live in fear because your parents might get in trouble with the police and even immigration over a minor thing. And it is saddening that this is the reality many people live, babies even.
Being an American is in fact protecting your country and you do that by protecting its people, the government is just the people we elected to protect us. We are not working for them, but instead they are doing this for us, it is their country as well and we will not let anyone overstep even if they are “in charge” at that point. There are many issues to be solved and we need to understand our differences but accept each other and work together for change, it is never enough. Issues like mental illness, transphobia, sexual assault, domestic violence, and many others are still big issues that need more attention and action. We should not take sides and let our fellow citizens and people become more oppressed and marginalized. To be an American is to help each other, even if we cannot live everyone’s lives, learning from each others background is always a good start. Being an American is really a spectrum and knowing about different stories will help us empathize better with others for the better.