Back in 2017, as I watched the protests against Donald Trump’s executive order that “temporarily” banned travel and new visas for individuals and refugees from seven “terror-prone” countries, I couldn’t believe how antithetical the whole act seemed to the American character.
“We’re a country of immigrants!” I ranted at my wife. “Granted, we’re a country of immigrants that stole this land from the indigenous people who were already living here, but isn’t that supposed to be the American Experiment? The whole mythology of America that we tell ourselves? That this is some magical melting pot that thrives on diversity?”
“I can’t even imagine how children with immigrant parents are feeling right now,” I told her.
My wife looked up from what she was reading. “Um, honey, you’re the child of an immigrant.”
My father was an immigrant.
I’m technically a second-generation American. My dad came to the United States in the late 1960s, looking to make a better life for himself and earn enough money to be able to send home extra funds to his struggling family whenever he could.
He was a laborer. A mason, a bricklayer who helped construct buildings in downtown Detroit. He was proud of living in America but never became a full American citizen. He was an “alien” and an immigrant until the day he died.
So why, during my outrage over the immigration executive order did I forget that my own father was an immigrant himself?
Because he was white. And I’m white.
I don’t remember my father as an immigrant because people never treated him like one.
My father could pass. He just looked like any other white-bred American you’d see on TV.
The only giveaway was his voice.
He was from Scotland and had a thick accent that was one part Sean Connery, one part Mike Myers from So I Married An Ax Murderer.