This I Believe

Nima - Deerfield, Illinois
Entered on May 2, 2007

Remembering Your Heritage

Ellis Island eighty years ago. Everyday, waves of immigrants entered America. These immigrants bought tickets by selling all personal belongings. Many had just been on crowded and disease-infested ships. Going through checkpoints not understanding any English words asked. The diseased-infested are denied entry. Americanization starts here because immigration advisors start dissecting names and creating new ones. The confused immigrants don’t understand and soon they’ve been renamed. Finally herded away like cattle.

My parents came to America years after Ellis Island’s closing via Green Cards and Student Visas. Their native names unchanged. My mother didn’t lose the extra 10 letters in her last name instead creating a middle name. My father’s name was untouched.

Growing up, I complained about my name. I argued I’d rename myself Michael at eighteen, named after my favorite basketball player Michael Jordan. My name was constantly butchered by teachers, teased when learning about Columbus, or believed to be feminine.

Today, my name is probably one of the last examples of my culture. America is a sea of clones that after generations’ cultures are washed away. What became of the Italians, the Irish, the Germans, Africans and etc…? How many Italians can speak Italian? How many African-Americans know about ancient Nubian Tribes? These former large communities in America were persistently suppressed. Always doing the dirty work and receiving great deals of racism. Racism forced them to abandon their heritage. They lost their native language and forgot their history. After generations they’ve lost ties to their culture except for flags and stereotypes. America isn’t about diversity, but the slow degrading of prominent cultures.

People abandon what they know because that’s the main way to become American. More importantly to become RICH! There are exceptions of rich and well-cultured individuals. Yet, middle class America, commonly known as White America, is portrayed as 9-5 jobs, state university educated, 2-3 kids, great schooling system, fourth of July barbeques, marriage in mid-20’s, retirement in 50’s with a condo somewhere warm.

I believe one’s heritage tells more about the person than anything else. I’ve lived in Glenview, now in Deerfield, surrounded by rich, prominent people. I’ve lost my lust for being rich. I don’t despise them, but after realizing their internal problems. If being rich means trips to the Caribbean never paying attention to the conditions of its inhabitants, buying your child a Jetta, downsizing jobs so corporate America grows exponentially, getting a job for the title Dr. or working the 9-5 job, and taking the Metra home for 25-30 years. I guess years of embarrassment of my heritage because that’s what keeps immigrants limited. If being rich means losing your heritage, then it’s not valuable. Yet, America is still drawn to the exoticness of diversity.