Introduction: This essay investigates the question are immigrants really that different? I use two of the book which I have read to answer this question. I also mention the medias role in influencing this question. I conclude that if we get rid of the labels, there are little to no differences.
Whenever most people hear the word immigrant their mind automatically thinks of people very different from them. The media can often create labels of immigrants as being dangerous, thief-like, label them as illegals. Americans don’t like to be called dangerous or thief-like and Americans often view them as the “other” people that are so different than us that they can’t even fit in the American-culture. As I have read the stories of immigrants throughout the last couple months is that there are a lot less differences than we might think. Not only are morals the same but also the everyday quirks are the same.
The book Behold the Dreamers 1 follows the story of Jende, a Cameroonian immigrant who becomes a driver for Clark, a partner at Lehman and brothers. From the beginning of the book, it seems like there are a lot of differences between them. Jende is of the lower class making only $35,000 from Clark a year. It never says Clark’s salary but he has both a house in the Hamptons as well as a huge apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Jende has an apartment which houses four people, but has only one bedroom. Clark has an apartment so big that he needs multiple cooks, housekeepers, and maids to keep it together. As the book goes on, Jende and Clark become quite friendly with one another. They often have conversations while traveling from one location to another. One conversation they had was about Clark’s son Vince. Vince is a twenty-two year old who recently graduated from Columbia. After graduating, Clark made Vince go to NYU law school. But this isn’t what Vince wants, and he decided to drop out of law school. Jende hears about this and become very interested in this decision. He decides to talk to Clark about it. Jende asks Clark about what he thinks about this decision, and Clark is extremely disappointed he says that going to Law School will make you successful. This is the exact same way Jende reacted when he heard that Vince wanted to drop out. Jane’s cousin is a lawyer on wall street and is very successful, his dream for his child Liomi is for him to become a successful lawyer.
Even though Clark and Jende come from two very different worlds they can agree on two things: that they both want success for their children, and that becoming a lawyer is the way to do it. In this book, you hear both Clark and Jende’s opinion on how to be successful in the United States but you never hear if this is something which their children want. They both would rather take success over the happiness of their children. You constantly see this theme recurring in the book, hard work and success. One day, Jende’s wife Neni is called into Liomi’s school due to an education problem with Liomi. The teacher says that Liomi is distracted in school and that he distracts other students in his class, and this makes Neni extremely upset. As soon as they leave, she starts scolding Liomi, asking if he wants to have money in the future, asking if he wants to be successful in the future, all she wants for Liomi is for him to have a good life and she thinks that asking these questions is the way to push him into the right path. Just over the river this is exactly what Clark wants for his kids. In the book he is constantly seen having arguments over the phone and in person with Vince, asking if he wants to be successful in the future, if he wants to make a name for himself, if he wants to have a good life. When Jende and Clark first meet you would never think that these people from two completely different parts are similar, just when they start having conversations do you see that they have very similar morals.
People always focus on the differences between people from different countries. They look at the language, the mannerisms, the religion, but if people look past those things, they will find people who are just like us. Not only do these people have the same values as us but they live a very similar day to day life like us. In the book Exit West 2 there are two main characters named Saeed and Nadia. The book follows their life falling in (and out) of love, having to flee their country together, and ultimately their lives in new countries. In the beginning of the book we are introduced to both characters, first telling the story of Nadia, a young woman who lives alone and works at a marketing company. We also learn about how she grew up. “She had gone to a school that emphasized rote memorization, for which she was by temperament particular ill-suited, and so she spent a great deal of time doodling in the margins of her textbooks and notebooks. Hunched over the hide curlicues and miniature woodland universes from the eyes of her teachers.” pg 21 This is a quote which showed how Nadia was as a student, when reading this quote I realized that I knew so many people like Nadia. That her personality was also present in people around me. This quote really shows that these “foreigners” these people which we often view as other, are just like us. Their schooling is all about memorization and taking notes. That when these “foreigners” get bored in class they also doodle.
When disregarding language, religion, and place of birth we can view many similarities. These constructed differences which are influenced by hate are to just target a group and tell no truth. Jende and Clark have the same values and want the same for their children, Nadia is just like the kid doodling in their notebooks in the back of the class. Immigrants are different simply because every person is different, but if we remove the titles of Immigrants, Undocumented, and Illegals then the differences start to fade.
1Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers: a Novel. Random House Inc, 2017. 2Hamid, Mohsin. Exit West. Penguin Random House, 2017.