Posts Tagged ‘ Immigrants ’

The Colorful Shades of Money.

As individuals immersed in work to fight poverty, we tend to speak in advocacy for the poor. Both authors of this blog have worked in the depths of poverty, with the homeless, unemployed and those who might rely on welfare checks to survive throughout each month. We have been exposed to poverty in one of the riches countries around the world, but have also gone abroad to work with the impoverished and homeless people in developing nations. Just as our blog title states, we see the “colors [indeed shades] of poverty.”

However, I have cause to wonder whether or not we truly see equality on the side of poverty. I obviously do not speak for my co-author, let me be plain in my disclaimer.

First, a history lesson:
I am a member of one of the largest immigrant groups to the US, the Chinese American community. We are the model minority. We are all the shades of yellow from every type of vocation, age, socioeconomic status, gender and upbringing. We have suffered discrimination throughout our experience ever since we first came during the building of the continental railroad. There were no advocates for us then and, as is typical of the Chinese people, we persevered throughout all the roadblocks put in front of us by the White Man. [This is not to say anything about White Americans as they are today, but to simplify detail a fact in history.]

There are newly arrived Chinese Americans, and there are families who have lived here for over 50 years. Regardless of how long an individual has lived in this country, one thing we can never deny is our roots, the traditions and customs that make us Chinese Americans. And yet, there are many rifts among us: young vs old, those born overseas vs those born in USA, those born overseas outside China vs those born in China, etc. The list goes on.

One of our guiding values is that of financial stability due to career success. There are those who have been here for a very long time who have become doctors and lawyers. These are our heroes, the pride of our community; the ones who made it, the ones we expect our children to look up to and to one day become. Some new immigrants do make it. They become the scientists and lawyers and doctors that gives the rest of us hope.

Yet, those are the few and far between. Many unforeseen circumstances erupt to hinder and divert our path in the journey of life, and not all are successful in the pursuit of this goal. As a result, a rift is created between he who gains the success and wealth desired and he who cannot or does not.

My first experiences of this were in college. Granted, most were predominantly White Americans. However, there was a change that was required of me. I was called the “trendsetter” and “prim and proper” and ultimately, the “spoiled rich girl” all simply because I wore nice designer clothes, acted in a way typical of the area in which I grew up, and drove a car that my father bought to force me to drive. Now, in the Silicon Valley where I grew up, those things would not be out of the ordinary…except that most kids love to drive. But in Northern California, things became different. Property taxes, salaries, and the typical standard of living were lower. The culture of the area was also very different; the community as a whole was very dedicated to family life and people enjoyed wilderness activities (kayaking, skiiing, snowboarding, sailing, hiking, etc.) more than the consumerist city life I was attuned to.

And as a result, a sort of majority mentality began to develop: the idea that I was rich, and that it was a bad thing. It was all so strange to me. Me, rich? I guess maybe the Silicon Valley of the Bay can be considered possibly Upper Middle Class in the most extremely affluent of areas. However, I never lived in them or was anything like them. I was always Middle Class. There were always people who struggled more than my family did, and there were always people who we struggled to become more like. I had never considered myself in that manner before.

However, I must say I have never once considered the idea that poor people are better than rich people. NOR have I ever considered that rich people are better than poor people! That sounds ridiculously absurd to me! And yet, there are many people, Chinese and otherwise, that have such ideas. Some believe that poor people are bad and even criminal. Others think the poor put themselves in that position. Some others think that poor people are better than rich people because they are happier. [Let me tell you, they have never met the impoverished with an entitlement complex at social services!] Still others believe that poor people are are a drain on the system.

Where is the equality in these socioeconomic divisions? Where have we gone? How can we be one people when we cannot even agree to look towards one another with a non-judgmental attitude?

I am lucky. I have grown up with a father who lived an impoverished life in a developing nation AND a mother who was the daughter of a wealthy businessman. I am the typical Chinese American, and I have experienced both sides. I am both a hoarder, penny pincher and DIY fanatic while also one who purchases high quality items whether it is clothes, food, furniture or medical services.

People are people. Whether poor or rich, labelling others based upon socioeconomic status is still a focus upon money. Let us not allow the “shades of money” to rule our lives or how we view others. It is important that we see each other as just PEOPLE. Together, we can be people.

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Legalizing Racism

I found an article on NPR’s website that caught my eye this morning. It talked about Arizona’s new law that not only permits but enforces racism for officials and agencies at state and local levels. The law requires police to interrogate any person if you have “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented. Moreover, it requires all immigrants to carry their papers with them in case their status is ever questioned. Failure to do so would mean that such a person is committing a crime of trespassing. (I think this is also the state that says it’s OK to shoot a trespasser on private property). Sure, this goes for all immigrants—but we know those who are white and English-speaking do not have to worry about this so much since they may not look “reasonably suspicious”. For a comical example of this, watch Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.

This goes back to my theory that the word “immigrant” has now come to have a string of assumptions: Mexican, illegal, criminal. “Reasonably suspicious” of course targets those of darker skin, Spanish speaking people. Racism always finds a new demographic to hate. The focus is now more on Latinos than I think it has ever been—possibly even more hatred is brewing for the Hispanic community than that currently exists for the African American.

What is the sudden deal with immigrants—particularly those of Hispanic origin? Doesn’t everyone know we are all (except Native Americans) product of immigration, and in that case, most likely illegal immigration? Our white forefathers and mothers came the same way as the Latinos have been coming in the recent decades. Nothing at all has changed—just the American attitude and conception of what is “American”. I get that we want immigration control—but we need to be careful on what our motives are and profiling actually means.

There is always an ethnic group that society hates the most–a sad reality, indeed. Americans, for the most part, cannot stand Mexicans. I’m always hearing racial slurs about them. People say awful things about them right in front of me, even though I could be Mexican. They don’t give a shit. Why? They have dehumanized them, and that’s made plain by the words they use and how they’re used. Check out my word web I created to show the connotations of the word “Mexican” and the most commonly associated words:



Least of all people think of them as human beings. If people were to think of them as human beings first they wouldn’t call them “illegals” (as my old college friend did on Facebook chat today–grr) and would actually think about why they’re here at all and how we can help them as people. No one wants to risk their lives to come into a country where living standards for them is slightly better and respect is much lower–obviously it’s a picture of how bleak things are for many people in other countries.

Interestingly, people have come to think:   Hispanic=Mexican=immigrant=illegal=immigrant=Mexican=Hispanic. Of course there is no such thing as an “illegal alien” from Norway or Sweden.

I love “The Office” for many reasons, but “Diversity Day” has to be one of the best episodes. I love the line “Um, let me ask you is there a term besides ‘Mexican’ that you prefer? Something less offensive?”

Sad how “Mexican” has become a bad word for so many people…

Lies, Lies, Lies

It is so easy to believe everything you hear. Especially from renowned, “credible” news sources. We should be careful to separate the wheat from the chaff because rumors and misinformation circulates around the world easily through money-hungry media and selective-hearing folks who enjoy gossip. CNN’s Lou Dobbs is among the most responsible for spreading lies and myths about immigrants—and Latinos as a whole. CNN obviously condones this, but contrarily support Hispanic Americans, with their token Latino newscasters , CNN Español, and Special Edition: Latino in America.

Last month, Halloween stores, Amazon.com, and Target were selling “Illegal Alien” costumes complete with an orange prison jumpsuit and greencard— although they seemed to have removed the handlebar mustache. This is our stereotype of immigrants because we like to think of them all as illegal and Latino. Or terrorists. Watch this video and get the facts checked on the media’s—specifically Lou Dobbs—statements of immigrants.

Health Care and Undocumented Immigrants

People say they’re not racist, but that’s not true. A lot of people honestly say that because they do not know what racism is. Racism, broadly defined by Webster’s dictionary is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”* More specifically, racism as defined by one of my anthropology books is “discrimination against an ethnic group assumed to have a biological basis.”** There are racist people everywhere.

It’s obvious there is a lot of racism in our country because immigration and border control is a touchy subject for many of us U.S. residents. While I support a tighter border, I do not support discrimination against any person in this country–that includes health care. There are just some things which should remain absolute rights, such as education and health. No one, for any reason, should be denied these things. I hear from the same people who want to go to Africa to provide clean water and vaccines say they do not want immigrants living here illegally receiving any sort of health care…even if they buy it. As a human race, we are all responsible or taking care of each other and the world. If our wealthy nation cannot permit undocumented immigrants to purchase their own health insurance so that they can live, then what does that say about our “Christian” nation? What does it say about our morals and beliefs? Where is the love?

I can imagine that many people who read this still do not understand how this ties into racism. Should I provide another helpful dictionary definition? Prejudice: “Devaluing (looking down on) a group because of its assumed behavior, values, capabilities, or attributes.”**  “To injure or damage by some judgment or action.”* Prejudice, as we see with those who oppose the new health care plan because it aids illegal immigrants, is the action of racism. I am sure that still doesn’t click for some people who are reading this. If that is the case, my advice is to think about it more. Really try to understand what this means and understand your actions and how they tie into your beliefs—which are likely to be subliminal. Think first before you act. Readjust if you need to.

For more info on the health care plan go to:
 http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/health_care/
You can read the PDF version of the entire bill here:

* Merriam-Webster (1991).Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., Publishers.
** Kottak, Conrad Phillip (2007). Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.