Janani Mohan

If our parents hadn’t pursued the American Dream

If my parents hadn’t immigrated to the United States a decade before I was born, I wonder how different I’d be. Would I speak Hindi better? Would I wear kurtas instead of dresses every day? Would I have closer relations with all the uncles and aunties back in India?

Nothing describes how it feels to grow up as the daughter of immigrants in this country. As a child, I didn’t understand ethnicity. I had no idea that I was Indian American or that our neighbor was Mexican American. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that we came from different places around the world, but I really didn’t get why that mattered. I was as American as anyone else.

But then I realized all the ways in which I wasn’t. In 2004, when I was four, someone told me to “go the f— back to my own country.” In 2011, when I lived abroad for a little, most people thought that I was Indian, not American. Since 2016, when President Donald Trump was elected, everyone loves asking me where I am really from.

My well-meaning economics professor corrected my English to the “more American” pronunciation, a student trashed me for saying “football” not “soccer” and I get “special screening” at airports. I’ve been regularly and “randomly” chosen for bomb swabbing.

I speak of an issue that every minority in the United States knows too well: how easy it is to lose sight of how we fit into an American dream when people don’t even believe you’re American.

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