Der Amerikanische Urlauber

Monday, April 11, 2005

Everyone Gets a Turn

Searching for their piece of the American Dream Posted by Hello

In the United States, we currently at the moment have been having a long and serious debate about immigration, particularly that of illegal immigrants that frequently come from Mexico. Just last week, a group of armed citizen volunteers that call themselves the Minutemen (after the Revolutionary War colonial troops, for a patriotic touch) started patrolling the Arizona border with Mexico, as this is the most easily violated border in the Southern United States now that California pretty much walled theirs shut.

Illegal immigration is a huge problem. However, it's wrong to paint the Mexicans in particular in a certain light. Many do indeed come here illegally, and there are a portion who can't work and just seem to drain our national services like healthcare and education. However, a good portion do jobs that any naturalized American citizen, especially a native-born white, would never touch. Even if they WERE unemployed, I want to see a former GM factory employee go into a field in California and start picking strawberries and tomatoes.

That strays from the point I'm aiming for. Not only are illegal immigrants looked down upon, but it is an unfortunate fact, and has been since the founding of this country, that immigrants of any stripe are looked down upon and discriminated against. Legal or not.

Everyone gets a turn...

It seems that each group has had to endure a painful initiation process into American society before two or so generations pass and the group's children are considered as American as the original Anglo-Saxon WASP community. First came the Germans, whose descendents now constitute the largest ancestral group in the United States. The real wave started with the Irish Catholics who came over during the mid-1800s. Immediately facing racism and de facto segregation, the Irish were characitured as being dirty, looking like monkeys, and had difficulty getting jobs. "No Irish Need Apply" was such a common refrain that it was made into a song.

During the early 1900s, the main groups to come over were Jews and other Eastern Europeans, particularly Poles, and Italians. Again, they all got to endure a painful process of hate and resentment from the native born Americans.

Being that my ancestry itself is so diverse, and it includes Italian, German, and Irish lineage among others (French, Dutch, and Scottish rounding it off) I have personal stake, and I've studied and heard many stories of the discrimination my earliest ancestors experienced, particularly the Italians.

My great-great grandmother, at the age of 7, had to work in a sweatshop making clothes in New York City's Garment District. What she and countless other Italians had to do back then was the backbreaking dirty work no native born American would do.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

And yet in return, each group faced glaring eyes and cries of suspicion and hate. In time, what I have found to be the most disturbing, is that the very descendents of these immigrants have become as bad as the earliest American WASPs who discriminated against their own ancestors. How quickly we forget, right?

When you stop and consider that the "Mexicans" you mock at the corner, who mow your lawn or build the new skyscraper downtown, or are paving the new road, consider that at one time it's very possible your own ancestor did the same thing. Yet, because we all forget history so easily, we forget where we all came from, and so this cycle just continues.

It seems that in the United States, in most countries in fact, the newest immigrant group gives the old one a break, in a changing of the guard where the new one takes over as the society's whipping boy until other hopefuls come along. Everyone definitely gets their turn, don't they?


  • At 4:35 AM, April 12, 2005, Anonymous Kim said…

    And that is when I always think...what is a real American? What if the Indians would have treated dearest Columbus the same. Aren't yuo all illegal immigrants if you go back to basics?

    We have a similar problem here in Holland. No Dutch person wants to do the dirty jobs, and no illegal worker is allowed so they get penalties. Great solution...not!

    I also never understand why people in one country look down on people of another country. I work worldwide and in business it is just the same. The Japanese can't work with women, the Americans can kick you out for nothing, the Russians have stupid laws. Yes, even in business discrimination and prejudice is a fact.

  • At 5:29 AM, April 13, 2005, Blogger Psi-Lord said…

    Like I've probably even mentioned in one of those PMs at Unilang, that seems to be a basic difference between us, at least from a modern point of view. Although life was hard, everytime I read stories about immigrants here, they always mention how great it was to arrive in a country that did make them feel welcome or something. I guess that, to an extent, it might even be 'cool' to be a foreigner. The main exceptions, though, are those that are ultimately the only non-foreigners around here—the natives—or those that had no option, since they were captured and brought here as slaves—the black. Up to this date, they are the ones that are likely to be looked down on and be working in one of those jobs others feel too good to accept (although I must say most people I know would do anything if they had no other options indeed). Considering that slavery in Brazil was only abolished in 1888, it seems that 150 years won't be enough to change people's view on them.

    Curiously, one of the main plots of our current eight-o'clock soap opera here revolves around Latin Americans that will do anything to get to the US, and how much most of them really believe that they'll be entering a whole new universe where everything's possible, including their becoming rich and important overnight. =Þ


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