My Two Americas

Cassandra - Brookline, Massachusetts
Entered on May 22, 2008

I don’t believe that there is one America. I believe politicians who used and recycled the message of two Americas because at different points in my own American journey, I have belonged to disparate worlds. On June 5th, 2008, I added a doctoral degree from Harvard to the two masters degrees that I already have from Johns Hopkins University. The America that I enjoyed at Harvard is a far cry from another I knew a few short years ago.

My mother, while still in her twenties in Nigeria, became widowed with three children. In search of a better life, she made her way to America. As a recent immigrant in this country, my mother lived a weather-beaten life—a life of long work hours and low pay. I became intimate with my mother’s America when I joined her and also began to work. We worked in an America where jobs seared ugly injuries on the bodies of workers and where reports of those injuries were suppressed with threats of deportation. An America where I, even though a teenager, worked sixteen hour days. An America where jobs were not about choices and four people were not hired to do a job if two could be forced to do it.

However, this America also gave my mother the opportunity to go from selling pizza to graduate students to becoming a graduate student at that same university. This America allowed me to start from a community college and work my way through several prestigious universities to a doctoral degree at Harvard.

Now, I live in THE America imbued with privileges. News coverage of the credit crisis in America and the food crises in the world strengthen my belief in not just two Americas but two worlds. Before America, I was a pre-teen who became a parent to her siblings while her mother tried to make it in America. Then, my most intimate mates were hunger and thirst. In all of my Americas, food, even if not nutritious, was available and drinking water was not scarce. I believe in America, regardless of how many there are, because it made my present privileges possible.