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Entries in immigration (5)



I was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Both of my parents were immigrants.

I was born a U.S. citizen.

Apparently, the President of the United States thinks that is ridiculous.

I think about all the American citizens including my parents, sibling and my first cousins and I do a tally of our occupations: three doctors, three lawyers, three corporate executives, two teachers. We all work so hard. We all work in fields that are respected. 

Consciously or unconsciously, the children of immigrants are always doing this tally.  We're making sure that we earn our keep, you know? The thing I have realized in the past two years is that "earning your keep" in America is not only a lie, it's a white supremacist propaganda tool.

The truth is that the work/contribution narrative has served white Americans very well in comandeering people like me as agents of abuse against the immigrants who aren't doctors, lawyers or whatever.  Many Asian origin immigrants and their kids will go into these patterns of thinking that center on the model minority narrative, and we forget the broader ethical directive of: when people are in trouble, hungry or need a place to stay decent people open their doors.

No matter how hard we work, how smart we are, whether we save your life, teach your children, eat the same food as you, sing the same songs... there will always be people who will look at us and say, "You don't belong here." This is not because we don't work hard enough. This is not because we are criminals. It is not because we are lazy.

It is because they are racist xenophobes who want to "Make America White Again." They use resources as a straw man argument to cover their nativist agenda that is based on racial supremacy. In fact, this attempt to cover their racism and xenophobia is so efficacious that many of the 54% of the Republicans who support the revocation of birthright citizenship don't even know they are racist. They think we're shutting the door on the rapists and criminals.

What they don't see is criminality of ethics that are being used to shut the doors on people who are often desperate for safety, food or other resources which we have in abundance. 

I am no longer under the illusion that any of that 54% gives a shit about what I have to say. I want to talk to you. The person who knows what I am saying is true. Who is upset like I am about this conversation.

You need to make a very important decision right now.

You need to admit that our president is a fascist. You need to understand that the people who support him are wilfully supporting a personality that has been historically proven to be a catalyst for national pain and genocide. 

Our nation is not a facist state only because he is currently being reigned in by the precarious threads of the legislative body's and executive body's commitments to upholding the U. S. Constitution.

Now, I know this is going to have some of you thinking, "This is exactly why we should vote!"

Ummmmno, wtf liberal America, you should vote because it's your civic duty.

Votes in opposition to th Fascist in Chief's agenda will certainly strengthen the above mentioned threads that keep us from sinking into the pit of full fledged fascism, but it will not erase the deep seated racism, white supremacy and xenophobia which resides in every neighbordhood across this country. 

If you are among the population that this adminsitration identifies as protected (read: white), then your VOICE matters as much as your vote. You have to say something. YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING OR YOU ARE LETTING THIS HAPPEN. If you are saying something?

People will not forget that you were quiet.

Future generations will not forget. 

I will not forget. 



Lyrical Life: West Side Story

When I was really young, we watched a lot of American musicals.  It seems odd at first glance, but I think my parents, actually my dad, probably loved musicals so much because they were very similar to Bollywood movies.  In the very early 80s, finding a Bollywood video was not an easy feat.  So I guess he made due with movie versions like Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady and, of course, West Side Story.

The song "America" in West Side Story made my dad laugh really hard and I never quite knew why.  I just remember how gorgeous Rita Moreno was in that number and how much I wanted to be JUST LIKE her when I grew up.  Now that I think about it, I probably liked her so much because she was one of the only famous faces at the time that I had a remote shot of looking like as an adult.

I watched the video on YouTube the other day and started giggling.

I get it now, Dad. It is a funny song.

Anyway.  It's a great little number. Enjoy.

I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev'rything free in America
(For a small fee in America!)

- "America", Stephen Sondheim

I Love Asian Guys

Well, at least this one.

Have you seen the YouTube video of the girl at UCLA ranting about “hordes of Asian people on their cell phones” in the library?


Now, watch this.  Because, ohhemmgeee... LOL.

(Thanks to Mr.Brown for the hilarity and to Employee No. 3699 for bringing it to my attention.)

Also guess what?!  I have a podcast!!

I mean, it’s not mine alone.

The Zionist entity forced me to share it with this guy and call it “Hey! That’s My Hummus!”

It's not a cooking show.

Visit the site or subscribe via iTunes.

Follow us on Twitter ( @thatsmyhummus) .

Like us on Facebook.

And, um, listen.  That would be good, too.


ABCD & FOB / Really You're Not That Different To Me...

I got an interesting e-mail from a reader the other day.  "N.A." is a Bangladeshi American and somehow we arrived on the topic of marriage.  I gather that, like me, N.A. is married to someone who didn't grow up here.  She writes:
There is one thing that I think desi people don't really talk about. It's how abcds (I know it's not the best term:)) feel about fobs. ... I really wish people would just understand that we are all human.

It's like they think they are better than those who are immigrating from the subcontinent. The first thing the girls ask when trying to find a suitor is whether or not they grew up here. I understand that people feel that if both people grow up in the states they will have a better understanding of each other. That doesn't mean that people from India/Pakistan/Bangladesh are unmarriageable.

If you don't know what "desi" means or "ABCD," feel free to read this post to catch up.

When I was growing up, I knew one thing: I would never, ever marry an immigrant from the subcontinent.

Seriously, it's true.

I think I felt that way because there were so many times in my life when my parents treated my American-ness as a liability.  We will ignore the irony, for the sake of discussion, that they traveled thousands of miles from their homes to get to America and then spent the next several decades worrying that their kids might actually turn out, gasp, American.

I guess they saw my brother's and my growing up here as a direct obstacle to their ability to transmit their values and heritage.  As if somehow eating peanut butter and watching MTV were in complete opposition to Pakistani values.

Maybe my parents were motivated by a deep fear that on one of our many visits to Pakistan, we'd get off the plane smacking our gum too loud, wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a T Shirt that read, "Shit Happens," and thrust an open palm in the faces of one of our grandparents and and say, "How's it hangin', Gramps?"

All that fear of us being too American translated into me thinking that "desis," a term used for people from the Asian subcontinent, were totally lame.  It's true.  I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

Okay, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it.

I think I felt that way because the only way "desi" culture was presented to me was in the context of superiority.  See, we're family oriented, our parents would say... we have better morals, we have better manners, we work harder, we are less entitled... and, we definitely have better food.

It wasn't a deep love for all things American that prompted me to reject immigrants as social peers or potential spouses when I was younger, either.  It was that I hated that thing... that thing where you make someone else's stuff look bad in order to make yourself look good.  I imagined being married to some desi guy and having him drone on about... "Well, in Pakistan it's like this and that's so much better because..."

Of course, the central part of becoming an adult is realizing what a moron you were when you were a kid.

Also, for me at least, it was realizing the ugly truth that most people do that thing... the thing where they make other people's choices and values bad in order to make themselves look good.  You know and I know that my parents weren't alone.  I'd say, in fact, that they're representative of most people who are placed in cross cultural situations.

Just think about the last time you spoke with someone who visited a foreign country.  My favorite example is the one about my friend who visited Paris and all she could come up with was how much it smelled, how stupid it was that they asked whether you wanted your water with gas or not and how much NOT like New York City it was.  Hello.  It's Paris, not New York City.  Interestingly, I believe that's why they, in fact, call it "Paris" and not "New York City."

So here I am, well into my thirties, and married to an immigrant from the subcontinent.

To a fob.

And, he, too, is married to an ABCD.

A hyphen.

He could probably write a post similar to this if he was so inclined.  Something about how he never thought he would marry one of those girls who grew up in America, smacking their gum, wearing T shirts, faintly smelling of peanut butter and constantly high five-ing at the most inappropriate of times.

I think deep down, it's not about being an immigrant or not, about being born here or being born there.  It's about who you are, as a person.

Are you the kind of person who knows that there is value to be found in everyone, in every place or in every culture?  And are you willing to see that value?

Or are you a person who is so afraid of "different" that you would close yourself off from other people in order to preserve a sense of security about how you think the world is?

I know lots of people who have been all over the world, yet because of their way of thinking, they have never really left home.  They experience the world and the people in it within a very narrow and specific frame of reference.  They never let go enough of what they think the world should be like or what people should be like.  As a result, they will never experience the pleasure of being proven so entirely wrong that they find themselves head over heels in love with the very thing they thought they would never want any part of.  This is not the domain of immigrants or natives, it is simply the domain of people who are unwilling to see past their own noses.

So, N.A., what do I think of "ABCDs" who don't want anything to do with "fobs"?

I think they're not much different than most people who have resigned themselves to never wanting to find out what else is out there.

I think they suffer from the worst kind of limitations that any human can suffer... the ones we impose on ourselves.

Welcome to American

The notion exists that, in some way, every person who leaves their nation to settle in the United States is running away from something bad and towards something good.

Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth for a great deal of the immigrants that I know.  The truth is that in this nation there are many foreign born individuals who were neither tired nor hungry when they arrived on our shores.

The leaving of one’s homeland is a concept that is more than familiar to me.  I’ve often referred to my family as jet setter bedouins of the modern era.  In my head, of course.

Nearly sixty years ago, both of my grandfathers left their ancestral homes in India and crossed a man made border and became Pakistanis.  Twenty years after that, their children left Pakistan and magically became Americans.

I am a woman who is quite aware of the artificial aspects of the construct we call “nationality.”.

Still, nearly two weeks ago when we received a letter from INS instructing my husband to report to his oath ceremony I reacted with a considerable amount of glee.  “Daddy is going to be an American,” I cried to our daughter, “Isn’t that wonderful? Congratulations Daddy, isn’t this exciting?!”

My husband smiled an odd smile, not the kind of smile that I expected.  It was not the usual smile, the one that can brighten any room or get us free tickets to Disney while we’re standing at the gates with our wallet out (yes, that happened, twice).

It was... a sad smile.

The kind of smile that you force onto your face when you know that you are leaving something precious and meaningful behind.  The kind of smile that you must put on your face, so that others are unaware of the pain that lives behind it.

You see, like so many immigrants in this country, my husband has nothing to run from.

If he lived in India, his life would be beautiful and amazing.  He would fit in all the time.  He wouldn’t have to bend his mind around the most simple cultural nuances that we take for granted here.  He would never have to mow a lawn, do the dishes, or clean the pool.  Because, back home, they have people for that.

In all ways, his life would most likely have been easier in India.

These things didn’t occur to me until I saw that sad smile on his face.

That smile told me that being the native born American child of immigrants is not the same thing as being a naturalized American.

We, the children, are the beneficiaries.  We do not feel the pain as acutely of turning over the old passport for the new one.  We do not feel the sensations in our hearts that make us feel that we are somehow betraying who we are and those we have left behind.

I have no words for my husband on this day that will quiet those thoughts.  They may very well be true, I don’t know.

I do know this, though.

I can recognize that he did not decide to become American because India is a bad place or that the people were bad there.

I can recognize that opening one door means closing another, and that it is alright and completely understandable to feel ambivalent and even a little sad about that.

I can recognize that he, like my parents, did this for me and for his children.

I can recognize that as our children get older and he tells them that he became an American for them, they will grow up, as I did, with a deep feeling of importance and a sense of destiny because of his actions today.

I can recognize the incredible strength it takes to forgo one set of emotional attachments for another.

I can recognize the wisdom that we live in a world where international alliances are precarious at best, and the borders and hearts of every nation become less welcoming with every year that passes.  At the very least, having matching passports would offer us the perceived comfort of knowing that we will always be together.

I can recognize that like my parents, more than the word, “Congratulations” from me on this slightly bittersweet day, he needs to hear the words “Thank you.”

Thank you, Tariq, for becoming an American today for our family.

May this day open the doors before you to all sorts of joys, prosperity and goodness that will quiet the sad feeling that there may be some that are slowly closing behind you.