“Dedicated to Maria Elena Ramirez and Sojourner Truth”
All of my life, I’ve been told, “You speak good English” or asked, “What country are you from?” Sometimes I think, “Not again, with the questions.”
In fancy neighborhoods, sometimes security guards follow me in stores or search my bags before I leave.
I want to tell them, “My ancestors worked hard to build the railroads here, back in the 1800’s.” And ain’t I an American?
My Asian American family has lived in the USA for generations. I’m no foreigner. I’m an AMERICAN.
Listen…my speech has no Asian accent. On the phone, some folks think I’m white, like them. When I show up at their office for the first time, they look behind me, searching for some invisible, white woman. It’s a trip.
And ain’t I an American? REAL Americans come in all colors.
But Asian Americans are invisible here. We are perpetual foreigners in our birthland, trying to stay afloat in a sea of ignorance. We answer questions all of our lives like, “What country are you REALLY from?”
Hey, I grew up with Santana, Clapton, Motown and the Jeffersons. And like you, my family has always celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Some say my family has been here longer than theirs — yet our children are still called ‘Chink’ or ‘Jap’ in American school yards or told to “Go back to China (or Japan).” Latinos or Mexican Americans are told to go back to Mexico. African Americans are told to go back to Africa. Muslim Americans are told to go back home. But this IS our home.
I was born in the USA. But as a kid, I was asked in a new school, if I knew the Pledge of Allegiance. This question politicized me. And ain’t I an AMERICAN?
We belong here. There ain’t no place for us to go back to. This is it! America is home. We are Americans, just like you. We all were immigrants once (except for the Natives).
And ain’t I an American? Read a history book. My ancestors panned for gold and helped to build the Transcontinental Railroad — blasting dynamite through huge, granite mountains. Dying in droves here. Others were run out of town, once the jobs dried up.
We need some of you to get it. Now… And we’re waiting for the day when you’ll look at us and see us as REAL Americans, not as foreigners. We’ve been waiting for generations.
And ain’t I an American? Don’t make me break out my southern drawl, y’all.
© 2012, Risha. All rights reserved.