I remember it like it was yesterday; my first day in America. I arrived a month before my tenth birthday. I remember looking out the airplane window and the homes appeared so small they looked like huts and people looked like ants. The Miami International Airport looked so colorful. There were so many shades of colors and cultures. Until June 6, 1995, I hadn’t been away from my country, Haiti. People made the United States sound like paradise. As if money grew on trees and everyone living comfortably with no hardship. When I arrived I was so excited at first but then I became depressed right away. Not only did I miss home, I hated the feeling that came over me when I saw the homeless, there were neighborhoods that looked worst than most developing countries and I didn’t understand the passive racism I experienced at such a young age.
As a child growing up in Haiti I really enjoyed the feel of the creamy sands and the sparkling blue-green warm waters were so reassuring. It was my therapy. I missed the Islands so much that my heart ached. Every morning, I would wake up to the sounds of chickens and of birds chirping in the mango trees. Watching my uncles and cousins play the Guitar was pure inspiration. The language barrier was one of my biggest issues. I mean, I grew up being around people who spoke the same language as me, had dark skin like me, dark hair and browns eyes like me. I missed my family and friends in Haiti so much that I suffered from depression. My mother thought I was just being rebellious but it was deeper than that. I would cry myself to sleep and wake up in tears. I think the one thing that kept me going was seeing how much my mother had to sacrifice to get to America. So although I missed home I was ready for the journey.
Driving from Miami International Airport I saw people lying on the ground near the highways. I said “this isn’t the America I had heard such great things about.” This sad feeling came over me and I knew then I would be an advocate for the less fortunate. I was so disappointed by the inner city neighborhood some of my relatives were living in. I thought to myself. Isn’t this the land of opportunity? A couple of years after I arrived in America. I remember seeing this woman on the streets. She was so beautiful, but she was clearly malnourished. The little reporter in me asked. How did you end up homeless? She answered if you are living paycheck to paycheck; you are a paycheck away from being homeless. She said after she lost her job. Then, she stayed with friends and families. After wearing out her welcome. She eventually ended up on the streets. “It can happen to anyone.” She said, as she wipes tear from her beautiful high cheek bones.
When I arrived I was so excited because I had heard such great things about the country. But why were there neighborhoods that looked worst than most developing countries. There are two trends that are mostly responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and great increase in poverty (The National Coalition for the Homelessness).
Another thing I had to get used to was the passive racism I experienced from classmates, strangers and some teachers. I knew about slavery, but growing up in Haiti I didn’t really have to deal with it. 95 % of the population is of African Descent while multiracial and mulattos make up the remaining 5% (maps of world.com). There were times when I clearly deserved an” A” and I would end up with a “C”. Some of my teachers would favor the white students. It was as if the white students were more capable learning. Some of the white and Hispanic students avoided the black students. I used to wonder “what is wrong with me? What makes them think they are better than me? As a child after being treated like you’re less than human repeatedly. You begin to believe that maybe you are less than human. I realized most of White America is fine with working next to a Black person or even socializing. But there’s a limit!
I have to admit, America is a tolerant country. The united states tolerate such a high variety of people. The problem is not everyone is treated h equally.