Dear brother, good luck

Dear brother,

You have just become an adult in the eyes of the law and have just committed yourself to Sacramento State to pursue a higher education. I think you are going for the same reasons I chose to go to college. You have a dream, a dream that comes from the same roots as everyone that leaves for college, you want freedom. You want the freedom to go out whenever you like without having to tell mom or dad, you want the freedom to have a career that can keep you financially comfortable. You want to be free to make your own choices. That is our dream, and we believe we can have that dream, because Mom and Dad raised us with the privilege that allowed us to believe in the Dream, the American Dream. But there is something I have to tell you, as your older sister I need you to know that the Dream comes at a cost and comes with a history we have forgotten and a people that you and I have been taught to ignore and/or judge.

As an incoming freshman, you will feel vulnerable. You will be scared and not know what to do or where to go, and you’re going to feel this way for the first month or so, but imagine feeling like this your whole life. There are people in this world that face harsh amounts of racism every day. We do not live in a post-racist world, so do not believe that if anybody ever tells you that. I want you to understand the importance of feeling vulnerable, because I want you to understand how the victims of racism feel every moment of their lives.

Dad has always told you to be a man, especially since you are the only son in the family. You have to be tough, and show no emotion, because emotions make you weak. Although you may not admit it to me, I know that it is hard for you to have that kind of pressure on your shoulders. You feel like you always have to be strong, but believe me when I say it is okay to feel vulnerable. When you feel vulnerable it will simulate to you how it feels to be black in America. You will understand how easily something can be taken away from you, by the choices of another man. Black people are vulnerable to the power of the police and to anybody that thinks lowly of them, because that is what has been taught in our history classes.

People that have more power or more standing than you can and will push you around, because it will remind them that they have power over you. “There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream” (105). This a quote from a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and in this book he is basically telling his son that it is hard to be a black man in America, and that the Dream we have grown up to know would not exist without the torture white people have inflicted on blacks and other people of color in American history.

There is another thing I want you to keep in mind when you finally go off on your own into the world. Never forget what it took for you to get to where you are and the people that have worked so hard for you to have this life. America has made the mistake in forgetting the people that it has stepped on, used and abused, and taken advantage of in order for it to be the picture-perfect America white America has believed it to be. America is not perfect, it is far from it. Mom and Dad have made our life seem easier than most, because they were able to infiltrate the white Dream. The Dream is not real, the real Dream is to be white in America, because those are the people that get to live the American dream (Coates).

I want you to understand that the ability for us to even think about pursuing a dream comes at a cost. There is the literal cost of paying for our tuition, but there is also the cost of the people that came before us in order for us to have the opportunities that we have. Mom and Dad have to work their asses off every day to make sure that you, me and our little sister have a good life. Our people have never been prevalent in American history, but we fall into the same category as blacks, Asians, Mexicans, and South Americans fall into. We are people of color, we are not what people define as white. So, we are automatically at a disadvantage, “If you’re black, you were born in jail” (Malcolm X, 36). We are not black, but we were not born with white privilege. It will be hard to get what you want sometimes and I want you to know that the struggle is what you must endure, because we cannot be successful without struggle.

I have recently been working at a food pantry here in San Rafael, and here I have been able to understand that not everyone gets the American Dream. The people that come in are a mix of all races and cultures, and I am sure all of them are hoping that one day they will get to live the Dream too. Right now they are financially the lowest of the low. The homeless and low income people that I serve have been pushed aside by upper and middle class America, because they are not our problem and we do not need to care. But I implore you that you must care. I do not want your success to be at the cost of others. So do care, and remember what it took for you to become who you are now, and who you will be in the future.

Love always,

Your big sister