“Be safe.” “Be careful.”
The phrases that haunt the moment before every outing of a child escaping the walls of their room. Any other child may dream about the sightings beyond their home. The eager child pleading to take the train just to feel the rush of adrenaline as one attempts to stand against the force of gravity, driving our body forward, only to fail and be ambushed by its strength. The dream of watching the skyline and its glittering presence. The fantasy of making a new friend.
I’ve never been one to fantasize.
I don’t find much time to fantasize as I am too focused on combating the realities for which my family and I have become targets. People often associate me with an anti-social persona. “You never go out.” “You always stay home.” Yet people often fail to consider the profundity behind my choice to stay home because as long as I am home and my family is within my sight, who’s to harm them? I can’t deny that I would much rather deviate my attention to the city’s streets, waiting to experience the sensation of my feet on the beach or waiting for the sun’s rays to present themselves upon my skin. However, I would only take such a journey if I were guaranteed my parents would be able to do the same safely.
As of right now, the prospect of my parents’ experiencing a violent act of discrimination or simply be recipients of racist words is more of a “when” in my mind than a mere possibility. It is the fear engraved in my birth certificate as the daughter of immigrants. Eventually, the “when” becomes a “yesterday” and it is absolutely disheartening to be at home and hear your mother say “a customer told me to go back to Mexico.” Ultimately, the rage ignited deep within me evolves into a pang of guilt—a guilt for not being by her side. I recognize the sacrifices my parents made that have granted me the privilege of having a voice that is not suppressed; yet, the voice appears minuscule when even leaving home is a danger for them.
I am fortunate enough to have an education at the reach of my hands and even more fortunate to possess the skills necessary to teach everything I learn to my parents. I don’t find teaching my parents English so they can respond to racist commentary a burden but I do find the fact that it’s necessary for their safety utterly disturbing. Must one be proficient in English to be respected? Since when is the level of human decency one receives determined by the place of our birth?
Children of immigrants like myself happen to be more of a parent than a child because of the fear of our parents encountering danger anywhere that is not with us. It’s an unbridled fear and it tangles itself within every occurrence. We fear our mothers may get bombarded with racial slurs. We hope our fathers don’t become victims of assault. We wish for our grandparents to be able to go to bakeries without being kicked to the ground.
Inevitably, our fear is secreted as we are still children and all we can do is beg our parents to “be careful.”