I’m An Immigrant Mom Watching The News & Wondering Why I’m Still Here

Two days after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, killing 19 third- and fourth-graders and two of their teachers, I had the first nosebleed of my 42-year-old life.

Like everyone else caught in the shock paralysis that often follows a tragedy, I refreshed Twitter endlessly, unwillingly suspended between horror and disbelief. In my years as a teacher, I’d led students through more than a dozen lockdown drills, two actual lockdowns from active shooter threats, and one full campus evacuation. Now, as the parent of a third- and first-grader, I imagined the families of the Uvalde victims. My agitation couldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of their sorrow. In some warped way, reading every news update coming out of Texas felt like a necessary obligation. But standing in the bathroom, watching blood trickle past the toilet paper wedged up my nostril, it was apparent my body could no longer hold it together.

I wasn’t the only one. Everyone I spoke to was vibrating with anger. Interspersed between tears and unfiltered rage was a refrain that has become all too familiar: “Why are we still here?”

The jokes about fleeing to Canada began six years ago, but I’m not sure anyone is laughing anymore. It feels like each night, we kiss our children, tuck them into bed, then lie in the dark looking up immigration requirements to Anywhere But Here. As weighty a consideration as this may be no matter who you are, for first-generation immigrants, it just hits different. The multi-generational American might look at the events of Uvalde (and Sandy Hook, and Columbine, and all the mass shootings that have come before) and think, “What is happening to my country?” But the immigrant’s question is the more self-accusatory, “What have I done?”

by PURNIMA MANI
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