Thirty Years in the “Land of Diversity”

Book launch at OxfordYes, this is honest to my God!

After having lived in America for thirty years, this is my realization as an immigrant who came from a poor Third World family, with no English-speaking abilities, no money, no relatives in this country, and no real future. It was an unbelievably rudderless, nervous, and isolating life. Except for a very few people, nobody back there cared to know how my little family and I were doing here. But when we moved up from a class where they were comfortable to see us to a class they were not — through blood, sweat and tears, they became jealous to see our relatively good prosperity and prestige we achieved, in one short life.

Here in America, on the other hand, once an immigrant is always an immigrant: they are tolerated in a place like New York where we’ve lived most of the time. Tolerated, and taken for granted. This is of course with the exception of the open-minded friends, students and colleagues who have shown us their friendship and kind heart. We can’t thank them enough. But deep inside, America, in spite of its grandiose talk of diversity and globalization, is insular and resistant, especially for those of us who do not come with pedigree, or accept the Wal-Mart, MacDonald’s, Disney or Wall Street conformity.

For those of us who have lived the life of an activist, a “rabble rouser,” or as many of them call us, “trouble makers” — to reject individualistic wealth for equality, peace and justice, America is not a country that embraced us. It has done its best to keep us depressed and isolated all our lives. Our struggle to successfully move up from one class to another in one short life, through many sacrifices, without compromising honesty and integrity has no meaning to this America. New York Times did not care to know our life’s story. CNN didn’t want to know our immigrant life’s joys and sorrows. Or, for that matter, our “strange-sounding” names, lifestyles, food habits, or religious celebrations.

“Taken for Granted” would find its best example in the life of a new immigrant in America — the so-called Land of Diversity.
_______

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York

2 thoughts on “Thirty Years in the “Land of Diversity”

  1. Sorry you have had, and are still having, a hard time as an immigrant to this country. But not surprised. That has been the fate of many an immigrant and even 2nd and 3fd generation Americans. There were the British immigrants who were hard on the non-English speaking Germans, until the Germans took control of large parts of Pennsylvania and other places. The early 19th century gave us the Know-Nothings who have been with us in many forms ever since. The Irish were white English speakers (with a distinct accent), who were subjected to hate and discrimination for decades (newspaper cartoonist Thomas Nast was particularly viscous, but not alone.
    Rabel- rousing immigrants were particularly a target, like the Molly Maguires, and the Eastern European miners killed in the Latimor massacre and Haymarket Square. Group after group faced discrimination. My dad, in the height of the depression, saw signs “no Irish need apply.” Many immigrants refused to teach their native language to their children, lest their culture and heritage bring more discrimination upon them. This was a common theme in the steel towns and mining patches of the industrial northeast.

    The irony is that groups or individuals that managed to assimilate often joined those who punished other new groups. One wonders if they forgot where they came from, or were trying to pretend they didn’t come from immigrants. A book entitled “How the Irish Became White” explains assimilation in Baltimore. But the darker one was, the harder it was to assimilate. Mediterranean, middle eastern and Hispanic groups found it hard. Roma, or Gypsies as they are often mis-called, originally from India, had a problem for a millennia, in Europe and then here. Current Asian immigrants the same.
    Yet these immigrants and their progeny still make this a diverse (though far from perfect) country. Large pockets of ignorance and hatred exist all over, and newer groups have to suffer anew. But I have to believe that people of good will are in the majority and work to weave diversity into the fabric of this country.

    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful and compassionate feedback. Much appreciate it. I have written a lot about this subject. Will write more. Please send me your share of knowledge and experience.

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