The Land of Opportunity

Dear Mom and Dad,

First off, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for everything. Particularly the sacrifices that you’ve made for me and my brothers. The both of you wanted a better life for us, even if it meant that you would have to start over and immerse yourselves in a culture that was unknown to you, but you’ve heard good things about. To you guys, America was the land of opportunity. America fit your perfect ‘dream’ of a ‘perfect life’. You two started out living in Auntie Cherry’s house, where she had a single room available downstairs. Although working at medial jobs, dad working at 711 and mom working as a cleaning maid at the hospital, you two were hopeful and understood that this was how it ‘had’ to be; it was going to take time. Then, I came along and things changed dramatically. The urgency of ‘success’ was imperative now since there was another life that they had to take care of.

Fulfilling ‘the dream’ life in America seemed like it was coming together; a family was made. But the life we were living was nowhere near ‘the dream’; still working medial jobs and living in a small home that was getting too overcrowded. As a child, I didn’t understand that my culture set me apart from everyone else. I didn’t understand that just because I wasn’t a ‘pure American’, I was not entitled to the same things as my other classmates. I wasn’t aware that the way I looked was a factor into how other people treated me, like kids from school and the teachers.

This connects to what Mr. Coates is talking about in his book, mom and dad. He suggests that the ‘dream’ was built on a horrid foundation, not taking other cultures into account (particularly Blacks) and how this ‘dream’ only existed for the Whites. You two were in belief that owning this idea of ‘the dream’ would be the ‘natural result of grit, honor and good works’, when in reality, coming to America in search of a better future has resulted in America beating us down as a minority and not providing the SAME opportunities for us immigrants versus that for the Whites. How can America portray that it is the ‘land of the free and opportunity’ when I have seen you two struggle to put food on the table for us. This so called ‘dream’ has molded us to think that if we worked hard and committed to this idea, we would be successful here in America. The both of you wanted to ‘escape’ the life you were living in the Philippines because it simply wasn’t enough. The both of you hoped for more, hoped more for yourselves that you truly believed that moving to this ‘perfect’ place would automatically entitle you guys to a better life.

As a result, that I was not the case. Immigrants like us are discriminated whether we liked to be or not. It is twice as hard for us to get jobs based on the medial experience we have. Again, I did not understand this at all until I became older and you both showed me, day by day what it meant to sacrifice and put in the hard work to one day make something of myself. The both of you came to America not knowing a single thing about American culture and there were some incidents growing up where we were discriminated against by Whites. I remember this once incident when I was still in elementary school and my mom had to go to one of those parent teacher conferences. It was when I was in the 4th grade and my mom was proud of me because I was a fairly good student; however, when talking to my teacher at the time, who was a Caucasian woman, she told my mother that I was ‘good, but not good enough.’ A number of my classmates already got recognition for their academic achievements and as hard as I was working, I still wasn’t getting the recognition that I was used to getting in previous years. My mother said to me, ‘Sharmaine, it’s okay. Just work harder and you’ll get there.’ I took in this advice, mom. Hoping that I would finally get the recognition for my hard work as a student. I didn’t think anything of it, just that I needed to ‘work harder’. But, I could see the frustration and hurt in your eyes back then, mom. I just didn’t fully understand why, but I knew I just needed to listen.

With this said, even though the both of you didn’t understand that these ‘dreamers’ were solely for the ‘whites’, you overcame that all and wanted to give me and my brothers a better life. It all started with the both of you of wanting to have better even if it meant struggling through it all. The both of you showed me time and time again how much you wanted me to see that living in this country was not easy. You two never failed to show me the importance of my culture and where I come from and use this knowledge as I live as a Filipino American. This is the same thing Mr. Coates wanted his son to understand, his heritage and what it means to him and his son living in this so called ‘dream’ in America.

For this I am forever grateful. Thank you mom and dad, I love you guys.

Sharmaine