It’s truly an odd experience being an immigrant in the United States. Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and all other hyphenated Americans who come to this country and wish to be a part of its story live in a constant contradiction created by their love for America and certain aspects of American society which despises them.
I’m no different, as I came to this country with my family from Iran in 2006. Even at the age of nine, I had a love for America and a deep-seated desire to be here, and I can say unequivocally the moment I stepped on American soil was still one of the happiest moments of my life. And yet, despite wanting to be an American, to contribute to the ongoing story of this country in my own way, there are still many people who don’t want me here, who wish to close America to the rest of the world and retain the title of “American” for only a select few.
Of course, as a foreign born-American, you experience this in different ways, especially if you come to this country at a young age. They could be people who just shout at you from across the street, those who call you racial slurs on the bus or simply those who treat you in a more harsh manner than those around you.
Of course, overtime, all immigrants learn to deal; the art of being a minority in America is learning to pick your battles, to fight those who are true obstacles while ignoring those are simply nuisances. No one has the time or energy to combat every single instance of racism and oppression, and an attempt to remove every instance of racism in your life is an exercise in futility as racists, white-nationalists, racial-supremacists and every other hateful “-ist” will always be a part of your life in some aspect. In that way, bigots aren’t that different from the Hydra monster — every time you remove one, two more take its place.
Thus, the energy many immigrants would expend going after every single person who wish to force them out of this country is often spent on becoming productive American citizens, on becoming respectable, patriotic Americans.
Unfortunately, nuisances have a habit of growing, and the longer they’re ignored, the larger they become until they’re no longer just an irritating itch but rather a destructive force in your life. This was perhaps best exemplified by the 2016 election, when many American immigrants suddenly began questioning their security in the country they call home.
Everyday, millions of patriotic Americans watch the news coming out of the White House with fear, as all they keep hearing is that the United States now has a president that does not want them here, despite all that they have contributed to American society. They hear about the president’s advisors, advisors with past associations with horrifically racist groups, who use their power in the White House to advance their own agendas, and they aren’t sure whether their place in this country is secure anymore.
Just recently, the White House issued an order that it’ll no longer issue Green Cards, or Permanent Resident Cards, to immigrants who’ve used any welfare service, regardless of whether they entered this country legally. In the past several months, the Trump administration has attempted to take the citizenship status away from naturalized Americans by finding errors in their application process. Unfortunately, until 2020, there isn’t much any American can do to quell these fears.
However, there’s one thing natural born Americans, those born in the United States, can do to help out their fellow Americans: Support and defend them. If you see someone yelling slurs at a woman wearing a hijab on the bus, confront that person and support your fellow Americans. If you hear someone making fun of one of their countrymen’s accents, confront them and tell them that’s not okay. If you hear someone going on a rant about how immigrants take jobs away from “regular” Americans, confront them and tell them that isn’t true.
You probably won’t change any minds, but you’ll, at the very least, show your fellow Americans you have their backs, and, if push comes to shove; you’ll be alongside them. If nothing else, you’ll show them they have support in America; you’ll show them they are wanted and welcome here.
Because the fight against bigotry and racism has never been a fight that can be fought by one person, try as we may, it is a fight we go into together. And, showing your fellow Immigrant-Americans you support them is, at the very least, a good start to that fight.