LocationAlhambra , CA United States
This is the first essay in the Alhambra Source’s new series about immigrant narratives, sponsored by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University. If you have an immigrant story that you want to share, either about yourself, your family or both, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my parent’s eyes, we are foreigners in a foreign country. They have a sole goal and purpose, to provide their children with the best, what they never had. Am I Honduran or Chinese? I think comments like “you’re yellow” or “you close your eyes when you laugh” and “Chin-can-chon” have made it clear that it’s not my right to be Honduran. I stand out in the crowd, not for being outstanding, but for being different.
In my parent’s eyes, I am 100 percent Chinese because they are. But I think their criticisms prove that I don’t have what it takes to be Chinese. Like, “the tone is not right” or “you don’t speak appropriate Chinese” or “you can’t read or write” or “you speak Spanish” or “how can a Chinese person not master her own language?” Can I be Chinese if I don’t fully understand the culture and traditions?
The United States
In my parent’s eyes, the country of freedom, opportunity and quality education. I thought so too. Who knew immigrants were no longer welcome in their land? Now, I think the “immigrants bring down the economy” or “immigrants are criminals and terrorists” or “I have black guys counting my money” and “who’s doing the raping?” comments and jokes made by the president prove that I’m not white enough to be American.
Being an immigrant means being different. It means not fitting in. But not fitting in doesn’t have to mean not belonging. People like us are typically labeled “FOBs.” When I first moved to Alhambra I thought that there wasn’t anything I could do to change my FOB status so I chose to live up to it. I wasn’t shy or afraid to show who I really was and what my culture and traditions were. I accepted that I was different and that I would never get along with anyone here. Not long after I moved, I met a Chinese guy and after getting to know him, I realized that it was easier here for Chinese people. Contrary to what I thought, the Chinese population here is larger, so they have people to lean on, people that understand and go through what they go through.
Then I met an Indonesian girl, and she had it harder than me. She was the only Indonesian girl in our whole school and she struggled to learn English. I judged the book by its cover; I saw her as the girl that isolated herself from everyone, not allowing herself to know new people or traditions and cultures. But she took the initiative; she talked to me and asked for my contact info.
I met several teachers that support immigrants but I met one in particular. This teacher is patient and dedicated, and utilizes his own time to help immigrants. He often provides resources that can help immigrants such as Visa or Ideas Club. He reaches out to students that are afraid to reach out for help. These people have influenced and impacted my life in a way no one ever has. Living in Alhambra these past two years has allowed me to meet new people and learn to be patient and understanding of what others go through. I have learned that being an immigrant does not mean we are alone and isolated. We are not less or more, we are all just human. We have rights, but no one will serve them to us. First, we have to crawl out of the hole, pop the bubble, come out of our comfort zone. No one will take a stand for us, speak up for us, fight for us, if we don’t value ourselves enough to do it first. We have rights; all we have to do is recognize that we have them and fight for them. To belong, we have to be comfortable, not be embarrassed or ashamed of who we are and where we come from. Where we belong is home and home is where we love. Learn to love wherever you are, make it your home, make it a place where you belong. I am not ashamed to say that I am Chinese-Honduran, hoping to one day become American, because I belong here.
Sofia Chie is a student at Alhambra High School who aspires to become an American.