Me, my brother, my sister, and my parents have worked together to help transition five families so far to New York City and we are currently working on bringing home a sixth. All my uncles and aunts were willing to change their lives completely and leave behind their past to come to America in hopes of allowing their children to have a greater opportunity to succeed. They believe that “only in America” would they have a chance to be in a system where hard work correlates with success. From just watching this transition, multiple times, within my family I was able to see this core belief. I recall multiple conversations that showed how because my cousins feel that they went through a hardship of coming to America, they believe that it would be a waste of time to not work hard in this nation. Why go halfway across the globe to only achieve mediocrity?
This relates to the YouTube video, “Stephen Fry and Craig Ferguson on America”, that was shown in class on Wednesday. Stephen Fry discusses how with an exception of the Native American and African American population; the rest of the population chose to come here. By choosing to come to this nation and taking a risk of leaving everything that you had in your previous nation, you develop a core belief of hard work. Only through hard work, would the journey across the globe be worth it. I’ve seen this belief within immigrants and I think the ambition that comes with this belief is passed on to those that were born here. In class on the 8th, many classmates agreed that since they grew up here, they didn’t have the risk taking and hard work mentality that Stephen Fry believed Americans have. But, I believe that this core value of hard work was translated to us. Almost all of within the Macaulay class of 2020 have parents or grandparents that immigrated to this country. We all push ourselves harder because we know how much hardship our parents went through and because of this we work not only for ourselves but we work to provide for them in the future.
What does one think when hearing the word “America”? Well, for starters, it is quite difficult to think of only one statement for America to be because it is just so diverse. America is one of the most powerful countries in the entire world, and is linked to so many different cultures, racial groups, and religions. There are certain aspects of the American culture that are uniquely American, and can be found “only in America”. Quite notably, one might say, “Only in America would we have a business man as our president” or “Only in America do we accept weather predictions based on whether or not a groundhog sees his shadow.” No matter how funny or insane these statements may sound, they are all part of what makes “America” America. However, we not bounded by and limited to just these attributes. We are much more than that.
Stephen Fry once said that the phrase “Only in America” refers to something “astounding, new, novel, remarkable, brave, bold, zany, ridiculous, colorful.” Quite frankly, this description is nothing short of the absolute truth. Compared to many other countries in the world, we are absolutely the best. We are all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Though we all come from a myriad of different backgrounds, there is one ideal that unites us all: we want to succeed. Those who come to America come with the intention to do better than their ancestors. It is the idea that they leave behind the burdens of the past and start fresh in another country with opportunities for individual growth and advancement.
This is one of the only countries in the entire globe that a person is able to come from nothing and still be successful. It is the American spirit that drives people to become not only the best versions of themselves, but is able to become something that has true meaning. Americans are innovators and are able to overcome any obstacles that they may face. We come up with new, bold ideas and actually have the capabilities to make those ideas come to fruition. We are truly able to live out our own “American Dream”, which is ultimately funded by the free enterprise system that guides this great country.
This country allows for opportunities that people in other countries can only dream about. One can start up a business and be their own boss or get a job that funds their own passions and goals. America is one of the only countries in which we are ale to truly be ourselves and become whatever person we want to become. Not only are we are the most diverse and colorful country in the world, but we are determined and strong willed. There are those who claim that the American Dream is behind us. Yet, they are totally wrong. The American Dream is the future and we are in charge of it. It is our duty to seize the opportunities that we have in this country to make it a better place. And quite frankly, only in America is our dream as a nation so big and so bright.
As I began reading the first thirty-five pages of Nancy Foner’s literary work, “From Ellis Island to JFK: New York’s Two Great Waves of Immigration,” I came across a particularly interesting line in the text that is highly applicable to life in the United States today. Foner states, “They [immigrants] were in short, what made America great” (3). I find it ironic that our current president, Donald Trump, whose campaign slogan was, “Make America Great Again!” has taken such a strong stand against immigration into the United States. His slogan, which parallels Foner’s statement in purpose, has the opposite intention when it comes to immigration. His travel ban on citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, specifically impeded the very morals and love for diversity that the United States is supposed to uphold. He is instilling fear of immigrants within his supporters by means of discrimination.
The opening chapters of “From Ellis Island to JFK: New York’s Two Great Waves of Immigration,” assert the crucially important role of immigration in the history of New York City, as well as in the grand scheme of the American dream. People have been journeying to New York City ever since its founding. It is migrations like these that have caused New York City to become such a diverse location, which is a key characteristic that this city is known for. Immigrant populations have called New York City their home for ages and have been aiding the presiding communities living there for just as long. There are nearly no pure-born Americans left in New York City. Almost everybody is related to family members who made the opportunistic decision to travel to the United States for a particular reason. Why then are the immigrants of new so heavily stigmatized when the immigrants of old have made such sizeable contributions to modern New York City? Today’s new wave of immigrants has brought with them strong technical skills, as well as higher educational degrees than that of their ancestors (Foner 15). These immigrants thus have the ability to contribute to our society in even more positive ways than their predecessors did.
I find it absurd that Donald Trump thinks that banning immigration from certain Middle Eastern nations, even if it was temporary, is the way to solve problems in the United States. Internal immigration is at the core of American history. More specifically, it is at the core of New York City’s history. America is known for being the land of opportunity, a place where anything and everything is possible. New York City is a strong example of this. Why then should immigrants, who helped build the very cities that we now live in, be deprived of these chances?
BY: Annmarie Gajdos
During Monday’s discussion, we briefly mentioned the cultural diffusion effects of immigration has on a country’s cuisine in America. For example, we know that pizza comes from an Italian origin. Yet, any real Italian would be baffled at our dollar pizza slices could pass off as genuine pizza. I find it ironic how Americans tend to customize other cuisines to their own liking in order to suit their palates, but are deeply offended when foreigners label American cuisine as just giant versions of normal food. By taking iconic and traditional dishes and “transforming” them to be “acceptable” for the American food industry, we strip away the cultural identity of those countries and carry out regional stereotypes that misrepresent the world outside of ours.
The American food industry has taken advantage of the diverse melting pot that makes up our country. From food alone, we can connect to multiple people around the word even if we’re thousands of miles apart. We selectively choose what dish is most profitable to cater and from this selection process, stereotypes and misunderstanding is carried out. Take for example vindaloo, a popular dish from the region of Goa in India. What the American food industry does is take one popular dish and add their own American twists so that other Americans feel “safe” or familiar enough to try it. In the situation of vindaloo, common proteins such as beef, chicken, and pork might be added in restaurants so that they’re attractive enough for non-native customers to order. From only experiencing dishes we have heard of or tried, we automatically associate that one particular dish with the entire country. This misrepresents the multiple vegan Indians and those who do not eat certain proteins due to their religion as they are all categorized as “chicken vindaloo enthusiasts” because that is the only dish we see on menus.
In contrast, we acknowledge the multiple iconic regional foods across America. For example, we know that the South is the node of barbecue and the New England region is the only place to have the freshest seafood. Every region of the United States has regional culinary dishes that we automatically can name and understand whereas we struggle to name more than just a California roll for Japan or General Tso’s chicken for China. What’s worse is we can only name the incorrect associated dishes of other countries because we’ve been only catered American “approved” versions of those traditional cuisines. These American “approved” versions are detrimental for cultures as they discourages us to continue educating ourselves about them. When we don’t like one “exotic” dish we’ve tried from a non-American cuisine restaurant, we will automatically claim not liking that entire culture’s cuisine. For example, Chinese food is notorious for MSG as it is present in multiple “Chinese” take out restaurants and now the cuisine is deemed unhealthy and unacceptable to consume. Misrepresentation of cuisines reinforce cultural stereotypes. I believe the capitalistic nature of America is the biggest culprit behind this as there is no moral consumption under capitalism when restaurant owners exploit POC cultures/cuisines for revenue.
When the question of what is something you’ll find or see “only in america” came into play at the beginning of class yesterday many ideas popped into my head. It wasn’t just the positive things but i also thought of negative things that occurred “only in america.” As the class moved along we watched a short interview that brought something very compelling and a point that i hadn’t thought about before. The thought that America was derived from a population that was risk taking and on their feet at all times struck me because of my recent experiences in New York City. I only really noticed in the last year or so how New York City is a constant rush. People running from office to office, the bright lights at any time of the day and how millions of people every day walk the streets without noticing their surroundings. These characteristics of New York are a makeup of the people that live there. The constant drive to do well and succeed as well as the consistent competition is a result of our ancestors and their characteristics. They came from all over the world with a huge risk in starting a new life in a foreign country. Ultimately, however, they founded a country that is dedicated, driven and willing to risk anything to succeed.
One aspect of our discussion from Monday that caught my attention was the notion of stereotypes forming from the first immigrants who arrived in the United States from a particular region. I have never really considered where stereotypes stem from, merely that they have a negative connotation. However, this revelation, that I’ve been oblivious to until now, actually makes a lot of sense.
I could never understand why people so geographically removed from Europe shelf the multinationalism of immigrants from the continent into individual compartments with no relation to each other. It is, however, understandable that people who have not been exposed to these different groups be given the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, this often leads to the creation of simply incorrect or offensive stereotypes. To illustrate, consider the ethnic clashes of Europe that extend to modern day. (Although Europe is becoming more diverse, there is still a strong yet passive desire, under the surface, to dominate ethnic or national groups different from one’s own.) One example of this that I’ve seen first-hand is the conflict between Romanians and Hungarians over the region of Transylvania. Historically, some part of this region belonged to Austria-Hungary; however, for most of modern time it has been under Romanian rule. This is perhaps the most ethnically diverse place in the mostly homogenous Romania, yet there are still constant disagreements between which country the region should belong to. Both groups take pride in having cultures that differ from the other, with varieties in language, food, religion, and customs. In reality though, because of so much interaction between the two groups of people, the culture of the region has become very mixed. Nevertheless, those Americans who have actually heard of Transylvania simply associate it with Dracula—a fictional character based on an awful ruler from centuries ago. This is only further driven by immigration to the United States by Romanians east of Transylvania, who exploit this for tourism purposes. Thus, an association is born.
It’d be wrong to blame people for doing this if they have not known any better, as was the case in the 19th century when the stereotypical Irish and German personas emerged. However, in today’s age where information is available at one’s fingertips, I find the divisive stereotypes of Mexicans, Muslims, or Asians highly uncalled for.