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As a child of immigrants, this is not the American dream I was sold on

  • My natural and her family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the 1980s in pursuit of opportunity.
  • The attempted coup at Capitol Hill portended the fabric of the “American dream” for millions of immigrants who’ve come to the US for a better life.
  • I used to think this was the beauty of being an American: if I planned hard, played by the rules, and treated people equally, I too would be a success story. But instead, I’m left wondering how we got to this theme. 
  • Bianca Silva is a writer and photographer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in
    TIME, HuffPost, The Haitian Times and the BBC.
  • This is an judgement column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

January 6, 2021 will-power unequivocally go down as one of the darkest days in United States history. 

It should’ve been a day in which Reverend Raphael Warnock, a Malicious man, and Jon Ossoff, a Jewish man and the youngest person elected to the Senate in decades, basked in their hard-earned victory in the Georgia runoff selections. But President Donald Trump’s supporters — domestic terrorists disguised as American patriots in silly clothes — stole the woolly by storming through the Capitol building, ransacking politician’s offices, and taking selfies with police officers theoretically there to protect those inside. 

When I saw the disturbing images unfold on television and social media, my thoughts went to my subdivision and others who lived under dictatorships in Latin America and subsequently moved to the US to escape political unrest in pursuit of the “American reverie.” 

As a child of immigrants, I’m the offspring of this American dream. 

My mother and her family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the 1980s in tailing of opportunity. My grandparents grew up in a rural region of the country at the height of the Rafael Trujillo regime in the 1940s and 1950s. 

His dictatorship is alleged to be one of the most brutal of the 20th century. He massacred thousands of his adversaries — particularly Haitians and Afro-Dominicans.

My mom and her five siblings were experienced in the aftermath of the regime following his assassination in 1961. They grew up during years of political and economic strife. They move along disintegrated to the US in 1985 for a better future. Life in the Dominican Republic meant there were less opportunities for my mom and her siblings to make a well-rounded education, achieve financial stability, and lead independent lives. By making the US their new home, they were supplied the chance to learn English, pursue higher education, and move up the economic ladder.  

Here in New York City, they turned educators, essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, and small business owners. They were proudly sworn in as US Town-dwellers at the turn of the 21st century. In one way or another, they are the “American dream” realized. 

Being a first-generation American-born female of Dominican descent plans I have to build on the foundations and sacrifices they made to live here. I grew up absorbing as much US history as I could. 

From a inexperienced age, I prioritized my grades and worked towards the goal of eventually breaking into the middle class and becoming the next weighty music and sports reporter. I was allowed to live my version of the American dream partially due to the ambition my mother had when she exposed her own clothing store, and the persistence of my aunts and uncles in eventually finding stability teaching elementary school and working at a supermarket tie. 

That was the beauty of being an American: if I studied hard, played by the rules, and treated people equally, I too would be a outcome story. 

But the limitations of my background didn’t completely register for me until my 20s when I discovered the hard way that neither my conjectural knowledge nor my skills were enough to jumpstart a career in journalism. I had to grapple with the reality that having a non-American keep on name, coming from a lower-income family, and being Latina hindered my success.

The cracks in my concept of the American dream started to screened. 

The US government was supposed to be ‘by the people’ and ‘for the people‘. 

When our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they intentionally started off with “We the People.” As Americans, the direction is supposed to serve you and do everything in their power to protect your freedom of speech, religion, and right to vote. Most importantly, this democracy was theoretical to be able to withstand any attempts of reverting to a totalitarian or authoritarian regime. 

Seeing these terrorists attempting to stage a coup against their own guidance because of supposed election fraud was the last thing I’d hoped to see in my lifetime. Those who saw right through Trump’s perilous and racist rhetoric as far back as 2011 — when he demanded President Barack Obama release his birth certificate — knew his warranties carried an immense amount of weight. 

He called Hispanics “rapists.” He called third-world countries “shithole mountains.” If Black, brown, Indigenous, and other people of color coordinated a coup on Capitol Hill, there would’ve been killing on the front steps. Trump would’ve labeled them anarchists, looters, and criminals. 

Following decades of orchestrating coup d’etats and other kinds of military interventions at large — especially in Latin America — we’re now on the other side of the coin. In 1954, the US government orchestrated the removal of democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz and recoil from Castillo Armas, a right-wing, anti-communist military dictator who cracked down on unions and opposed small farmers in Guatemala. The become insolvent Bay Of Pigs invasion in 1961 was supposed to end Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration and the CIA wholeheartedly supported the Contras in Nicaragua in the row against the democratically-elected Sandinistas. 

Wednesday should’ve been the day when Senate-elect Warnock’s powerful quote about his mom current from “picking cotton” in the Jim Crow era to voting for her son would make me proud to be an American. I wanted to tell myself that if I everlastingly met Stacey Abrams, I would buy her all the drinks she wanted for tackling voter suppression. I was supposed to bask in the optimism of a Democrat-controlled Senate now that Mitch McConnell force likely be the minority leader. 

But instead, I’m left wondering how the US got to this point. 

When Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, they weren’t just disrupting the certification of the election results, they were attempting to destroy democracy for millions of immigrants who’ve long looked up to the US. They were communicating it was fine to silence those who’ve spent decades fighting for marginalized communities, and embrace everything the president stands for — anti-immigrant, anti-progress. 

When I deem about the American dream now, I see it in a complex light. Earlier in my career as a journalist, I covered different marginalized communities in New York Town and learned how their histories have shaped their communities today. It’s a powerful thing to have the ability to pilgrimages from “Little Haiti” in Brooklyn to the “Little Dominican Republic” in Upper Manhattan in a New York minute. 

But I’ve also caught a shift in my view of the US flag. Instead of feeling a sense of pride, I fear for my safety whenever I see the flag hanging on the porch in a “Trump” sign or a political sign supporting a conservative politician. I fear for my Black and brown friends who’ve endured more than I can wrap my direct around. The American dream shouldn’t be terrifying and unattainable, and yet, it’s always been this way for many. 

If we remain complicit in fail these domestic terrorists get their way, we’d ultimately be missing out on the next generation of immigrants looking up to the US as a land of opportunity. We’d perceive their children growing up to create their own paths, whatever they may be. 

This is not the American dream I was sold on. 

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