I Keep Waking Up from the Damn American Dream….

21 Dec

Some weeks I can only stand to read an article or two of news, because I don’t want students walking into my office to find me balling my eyes out, which is mostly what happens when I read the news these days. (You try being an inherently sensitive soul and then add pregnancy hormones to the mix.) I cried for two days after I read an article detailing the things mothers and grandmothers say to their African-American boys in the hopes of making sure they don’t get killed by police (thank goodness I read that one at home and not in the office). I took a long (silent crying) restroom break when I read about some foreign parents in the U.S. who might be reunited with their children after years of separation, thanks to a new policy by Obama (and then thought about all the people I know that it won’t help reunite with their children still). Some weeks I think that the United States of America is a place that is much too cruel, unjust, and lacking in positive values for me to even attempt to live and raise children there.

(You should definitely read this article. Tell me you can read it without crying: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/relationships-and-special-occasions/parenting/aisha-sultan/black-moms-tell-audience-how-they-fear-for-their-sons/article_050d4db8-8155-568a-93d3-20ec1d10f7a4.html

Other weeks I want to cry thinking about the injustice of our family being banned from there, of the possibility that we might never go back as a whole family. Some weeks I am bitter and furious that this crap that we’re going through didn’t have to be like this if the U.S. were less racist (It’s almost beyond even my best dreams to imagine it NOT at all racist- how sad is that?).

If we were still in Louisville, we would not be living in the dark. We wouldn’t have had to get rid of nearly all our belongings and start to accumulate them from scratch again. We’d have at least one closet. We’d have my reliable old Honda still and not be fighting with this car and all its problems. Most of all, we could have transitioned into parenthood with all of our friendships and support systems, instead of the both of us being alone and isolated and surrounded by families who mostly had very, very different types of relationships and values than what we were hoping for. So I get angry thinking how this wouldn’t be the case if the U.S. were not so incredibly racist. Or if Obama had put some of these new immigration policies into place sooner. Or if Conan had better luck. Or if we won the lottery (okay, this wouldn’t solve everything, but it sure would help!).

Then I remember that if we lived in Louisville we’d surely have different problems anyway. It would be winter time now and we’d be worrying about being able to pay our heating bill, for instance. We wouldn’t have our own house. Conan would probably be mostly out of work for the winter. Lucia might not even know her paternal grandparents. I’d be worrying about Lucia having too large a sense of entitlement, and getting shot in school (all those crazy white people and their guns!) and all kinds of other stuff that I never worry about with her here.

The reality is that having a “mixed” family means there are going to be things we’re missing out on and pining for no matter where we live. We were talking to some friends on Conan’s birthday about how in the U.S. you can get a six pack of imported beer and it doesn’t cost a third of your paycheck. Or how you can try all kinds of different food at restaurants for a reasonable price. And how you can acquire your entire living room set for free on the weeks when people put their “junk” out for trash pickup. How you can even get perfectly good food from the trash- a bruised apple, someone’s incorrect pizza. I was getting nostalgic and sad when Conan pointed out that when he was in the U.S. there were tons of things that he missed from here.

Conan spent ten years in the U.S., without being able to come back for a visit. Ten years without seeing his mom, ten years without tasting a decent tlayuda. This week I almost cried witnessing other people’s reunions and hopes for a future with more flexible borders for their families. My Chicago-native ex-co-worker finally got an interview with US immigration for her Mexican husband after six years of waiting and fighting. They’ve been moving all over Mexico for those years, trying to make just enough of a life, have just enough happiness to go on until they can go back to the U.S. Which now all depends on this interview next month. (Cross your fingers for them, please.) Let’s hope they can accomplish their version of the American Dream.

Then some friends from the U.S. came by, another “mixed” family who’s been waiting in the U.S. for their paperwork to go through for several years now. The husband had his interview and was approved (yay!). They were here with their seven year old son and the husband’s whole family (well, those that aren’t in the U.S.)- a traveling band of ten people altogether that came to have breakfast with us. The husband hadn’t seen his family down here in twelve years. They’d been here the better part of a month, and the wife reminded me of myself when we first moved down here- still in culture shock, trying to understand and appreciate this family bonding time, but totally unaccustomed to the overwhelming influence of family like this, the complete lack of appreciation of individual needs and wants. Bless. I am so pleased for them that they can now come and go, money pending, and see the family down here semi-regularly. I am so pleased for them that they don’t have to worry about being separated. I’m so pleased for them that they know where they want to be, and now they can be there together.

We, on the other hand, don’t have quite the same American Dream. These days, I dream of a time when we could have a theoretical choice about where we live. I dream of the day when Conan can go with us for a visit. Sometimes I wish we could live there now, or that we’d never left. But that’s not the case, so I shake myself awake and start the dream over again. Now we have a house and a growing family here, and that’ll have to do for now. We’re separated from my family and so many friends in the U.S. who are like family, but we have other people to be grateful for here. I try not to cry too excessively, especially not for myself. I rejoice in other people’s reunions and joys. I mourn other people’s losses and struggles. I remind myself that it’s not easy, no matter what. And I dream of a day when borders are just fences we can climb, imaginary setbacks we can overcome. I dream of a day when a racism-free world at least seems plausible even if it doesn’t exist yet. I dream of a day when families don’t have to be separated. I dream of a day when mothers don’t have to beg their sons to just be humble even in the face of blatant injustice, so they can come home alive because they were born the “wrong” color. I dream of a moment when we can talk openly about these things, when we all take the time to educate ourselves about the injustices affecting others, and work to change things, even though knowing makes us cry. Maybe tomorrow I can wake up here in my little corner of America and cry, but from solidarity and not sadness, knowing that empathy will do more to improve the world and give me my version of the American Dream, someday. For now I’ll use my tears to wash away some of the bitterness of injustice, the difficulties of life, for me, for so many people in so many ways. I’ll wake up and shed tears of joy for the reunited families, for the mothers whose children come home alive another day, for all of the hope that we can breed, starting with changing our dreams. 

2 Responses to “I Keep Waking Up from the Damn American Dream….”

  1. Kirsty Erikson December 28, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    So poignant….as a white mom with black children–yes. It’s a hard place to be sometimes. And the worst part is…most white people *just don’t get it*….including my family. Racism? Oh pish-tosh, that doesn’t exist. Don’t be so negative. Those black thugs were not worth rioting over. They stole, remember?


    LIfe isn’t a computer game. Shooting a real person with real bullets kills them, takes away their ability to grow up and change and be able to look back at their wild and stupid youth…(and we all had our wild and stupid times). My white family doesn’t get that. Nothing I say can change that. Because they see my really awesome kids and think it’s all parenting. But I don’t know what wild and crazy things my 18 year old does when I’m not around…and I’m sure he does them. Because, you know, 18. I *know* I was wild and crazy when my parents weren’t around. I didn’t rob a store, but I wasn’t always careful about what I was doing and where. I don’t want my kid to be a victim because he is a black man. Because he’s perceived as being threatening because his skin color isn’t the same as some cops’. And it’s a fear I have to learn to deal with. Like, forever.

    Here’s hoping that someday those walls fall and it will be so much easier for you and yours to come home to visit your mum, your friends….we all can dream, right?


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