My dad is first generation Chinese American. In the car ride home today we talked about my decision to move to Atlanta – how scared I am because I don’t know anyone, don’t have connections, don’t have a job – and he started telling his dad’s story. My grandfather came to the United States when he was 12 years old. His parents bought him a name and social security number and sent him by himself. Both he and his parents knew that they would never see each other again. Occasionally they might write, and if they’re lucky, a phone call. But at 12 years old, he had to accept that he would never see his parents again, and his parents had to have faith that he would live a better life in the US.
Fast forward to the future to me, the second generation of this family. This is one of the reasons behind my tattoo. I have a responsibility to be the best person I can. I have to reach for the stars and work hard and believe in myself and live up to the greatness of my name. I believe I feel these responsibilities because my family’s struggle to come here is so tangible. I’ll admit that I feel less connected with my mom’s family because they’ve been here for generations. I have no sense of her history. But because I knew my grandfather and my grandmother, both of whom left their families for a better life, and saw their struggles, I feel more connected to their cause. I live a great life now, and I’d argue probably better than most. Every day I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made, and the obstacles their parents encountered.
For anyone out there who thinks that immigrants can’t/don’t/won’t contribute to America, you’re wrong. You’re completely wrong. If anything, those who can trace their heritage all the way back to the Mayflower are the most out of touch with what this country is about. My grandfather cheated the system to create a life in America. My grandmother memorized the sounds of the questions and answers to the citizenship test, which I’m sure most natural-born citizens couldn’t even pass. My grandfather worked every day of his life in America until he went to the hospital. Though my grandmother never learned English, she raised two brilliant children and worked until she couldn’t.
Those who witness the struggles or bear the burdens of freshly immigrating here are the ones who bleed the brightest, most American red blood.