I am a U.S. citizen, and I am an immigrant. While my father was on the south side of Chicago studying on a scholarship, my mother gave birth to me in Chengdu, China. She left when I was two to join my father in the States, where they made a living waiting tables while going to grad school. My relatives raised me until I was four, when I was placed on a plane to reunite with my parents.
The transition from being a child in a sea of Chinese homogeny to America’s melting pot was jarring. I was the only student who was neither white nor black, and neither Catholic nor Protestant. I struggled with being bullied because of my background, and still remember the confusion and hurt of being pushed and called a chink. Back then, those kids probably didn’t even understand what they were saying, but they learned the hate from adults around them. in the fourth grade I discovered those with similar experiences; for once my classroom was filled with more first or second-generation immigrants than non-immigrants. My teacher celebrated our differences, and the abilities and talents we each brought. She helped us realize our inherent value and potential as individuals, and also the importance of recognizing the same in others.
Since then, along with many other immigrants, Chicagoland has been my home. As a former public school teacher, tutor, artist, and small business associate, my path has crossed with myriads of people, each encounter educating and broadening my worldview. These people, with upbringings and lifestyles differing from mine, have encouraged me, challenged me, inspired me, and strengthened me. The America I know is more capable and more vibrant because of its diversity, not in spite of it.
Let us support each other, and use what time, attention, and money we can to help those who are not able to be with their families or freely pursue their livelihoods. This past month, I donated to the American Refugee Committee, and contacted my government representatives on issues close to my heart. I urge you to take action, however seemingly small, to create a positive change today.
About the Author: Susie (InsomniaBird) graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Art Education, and was a public school teacher for over four years. Currently, she is a freelance tutor and artist in Chicago, Illinois, and works for two different small businesses. View her art or contact her at www.InsomniaBirdArt.com.