Pilgrims, Settlers and Trailblazers
first-gen·er·a·tion [ fûrstjn-rshn ] adj.
- Of or relating to a person who has left one country and settled in another.
- Of or relating to a person or persons whose parents are immigrants.
- Of, relating to, or being the first form or version available to users: first-generation computer software; first-generation camcorders.
My mother came to America when she was 18 years old and my father when he was about 25. By definition, they are first generation Americans as they became naturalized citizens. By the same token, I am also a first generation American as I was the first generation to be born here, but our difference and challenges couldn’t be more different.
Being an immigrant or the child of immigrant parents is tough enough, but now add to that that you are a Muslim. You are now not just a minority, but a minority minority.
The pilgrims came to this country and set up camp, called your parents over and your parents became settlers, setting up roots in the community. The pilgrims and settlers set up the foundations of Mosques. Though, not in your time, they built full-time schools and you swore you would send your children to these schools.
They struggled with the language barrier, took odd jobs, worked overtime and worked hard. They poured their money into these mosques and schools, devoted their time. They worked hard so that we wouldn’t have to, they said.
They sent us to Sunday school. They shipped us off to the old country to be with grandmother so that we would know our culture, our traditions, our language. Your best friend was Jeanne 9 months out of the year and for the summer 3 it may have been Jenny to you, but everyone else called her Jenana. While your parents knew what Jenana was majoring in, they couldn’t tell you what color Jeanne’s hair was.
Your parents raised you exactly as their parents raised them. They have spent so much time here that they have no idea what naturally progressed as normal in their own country, which was just slightly more modest than here. There was no reasoning with them as “well, you aren’t everyone else” applied, you knew it, they knew it. Respect and obedience became hard pills to swallow when all you wanted was to go to that concert.
Eventually it all passed. We grew up. We left home. We swore we’d do it better. We would be trailblazers!
We took over the mosques and the schools, but the mosques became too small. and the schools overcrowded. We want reform, instead we have to rebuild. We want progressive Islamic curriculum instead we have to focus on the core to achieve quality instead of quantity.
Our children go to Islamic schools, but their best friends are Bob and Jane and they are not known by any other name. You know that this is how it should be. Your parents want to know why it isn’t Beshir and Janah at the dinner table instead.
Great-grandmother wasn’t able to take the little ones for the summer, heck some of the great-grandmothers ended up here full time. You have no bonus as your parents once did. You have a 401k and a 529 that you can’t touch. You have to wait until you can scrape together the tens of thousands of dollars that it takes to get the whole family over there. Your child has no 3 month best friend.
You need to get out of the settler’s shoes and start trailblazing, but it just isn’t working. You get so frustrated when people ask why as Muslims we don’t stand up and make a difference and you know it is true. You know you need to, you try to, you just have a million different things that need you too.
I may still be walking in a settler’s shoes, but there really are some trailblazers out there. I know there are a few in my blogroll and I am still new to this, but I know that there are many more out there.