The Negative Effect of Immigration/ African Diaspora

Belyaev Vladimir Professor: Dale Byam Literature of the African Diaspora CORC3110 The negative effect of immigration Final—MLA Style The negative effect of immigration June11, 1999 was the day the title “immigrant” was added to my name. At nine years old I had yet to comprehend how powerful such a word can be, and how, because of this one word, my family’s life would change forever for the worse before it got better. Even though I was nine, I didn’t realize how fast my life would change. I grew up and matured not because I wanted to, but because I had to.

Looking back at my memories now, I always wondered if it was worth it to go through so many hardships and obstacles so that my mom could provide my sister and I a chance of becoming someone; a chance of making the “American Dream” a reality. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but one thing that I know is that my family suffered greatly. Even though some things got better, to this day I still don’t think that my life will ever be the same. To be an immigrant means you are a nobody and that you have to start fresh. The laws are different, the language is new, and most importantly – the culture is new.

The ability to express yourself is gone because of the language barrier. Immigration has effects both on the family and on oneself – not to mention that it brings physiological damage. It has a negative effect on both kids and parents because of the hardships that people have to overcome ahead. For this paper, four works will be analyzed to show the impact of immigration on African Diaspora. Immigration causes people to face issues such as the need to change, social and economic difficulties, and the loss of culture. All of these problems will be described and shown.

The impact of immigration is apparent in all of the works and it is still seen today. Our perception of a person is made from the first impression. It takes 7 to 30 seconds to form a first impression of a person but it can take years to change that impression. Everybody, including immigrants, make a first impression. The problem is that our culture is unique and we tend to judge people (especially immigrants) wrongly by knowing they just arrived and are having hard time. Even as an immigrant myself I sometimes catch myself doing it.

The road of immigration is not an easy one and it is definitely not for everybody. It is a choice that changes your life forever, and even though you are striving for the better you have to go through hard times before you get there. One does not have to immigrate to feel immigration’s effects. From the late 19th century, African people began to feel its consequences even when living on their own land. They started to feel the burden of the word “immigrant” because of other nations used the Africans as cheap laborers to exploit the African land for the vast resources it had.

The burden of new language, culture, and laws, were dropped on the people’s shoulders; and the process of immigration started when the Africans were forced to be immigrants on their own land. In our first work, we will be looking into a famous poem called Song of Lawino. This epic poem has become Africa’s icon of literary works because it depicts how Africa was suffering from colonization. This poem is a perfect example of immigration and its effects as it depicts two characters in two opposite extremes. Lawino is an African woman who is married to Ocol, who is the son of chief of their tribe.

In the poem, Europe was occupying their nation and brought over its culture and beliefs. Ocol became fascinated with the ways of Europe while Lawino stayed true to the African culture. Ocol’s fixation with European people, books, knowledge grew to such an extreme that he stated rejecting his own African people and even his wife. Because Lawino stayed true to her African culture, she had a hard time understanding what was happening to Ocol and was always asking herself why he is embarrassed of his own way of life.

Here, we can see the byproduct of immigration as we see Ocol starting to pick up a different culture and language and start to condemn his own wife. Ocol states: “He says I am primitive because I cannot play the guitar, he says my eyes are dead and I cannot read, he says my ears are blocked and cannot hear a single foreign word, that I cannot count the coins. He says I am like sheep, the fool. ”(pg 35). All of the knowledge he has gained through the process of immigration is reciprocated negatively towards his wife as he starts to look down on her and his people because he feels empowered.

Even though he immigrates into a new culture likes it, he cannot just forget his ways and where he came from. However, he did exactly that because he saw that the grass was greener on the other side. The behavior towards his wife is not taken well by her, and she becomes psychologically hurt by it. Lawino says “My husband treats me roughly. The insults! Words cut more painfully then sticks! ”(pg 35) Lawino states that the emotional pain he is causing is bad that no physical pain can even come close. No longer did Ocol consider himself an uneducated Negro.

He thought that he was smarter, better and should not associate with his old kind any more. Immigration into a new culture, language and beliefs was a choice that both he and Lawino had. However, he chose it and she didn’t. Furthermore, he looked down on his people’s traditional dances, and cultures. Lawino states to Ocol: “Son of the Chief, now you compare me with the rubbish in the rubbish pit. You say you no longer want me because I am like the things left behind…you insult me, you laugh at me, you say I do not know the letter ‘A’ because I have not been to school…you compare me with a little dog, a puppy” (p. 4) By saying this, she is trying to make him understand that he cannot do these things and forget where he came from because he was once the same way. Instead of taking the best from two cultures, Ocol took up only the new culture and looked down on his old one.

In the final result of this immigration, his wife and family received the negative effects by being disrespected, looked down upon, and humiliated. Immigration is seen again in the film Sugar Cane Alley, in which it is depicted in both a positive and a negative way. The film involves a haracter by the name of Jose who is a remarkable young man, and who, thanks to M’Man Tine, (Jose’s grandmother) is motivated to study and receive a good education. As Jose begins his journey within school, he commences his immigration process as well by starting to interact with different types of people (especially Europeans). Because Jose excels in school, he wins a scholarship to study abroad in France. This process of immigration is tough for Jose because as he is achieving his goals and excelling in life by making someone of himself.

His family (grandmother), had to suffer until her last days – working for barely anything, the entire day on the field in the sun, trying to afford this very costly route of immigration. It is quite ironic to see this happen because Jose gets a good thing out of immigration and his family receives the bad part of it. God’s Bits of Wood is a story that takes place in the 1940’s about a village in Africa that is occupied by the French. The French came to a town by the name of Theis with intentions of modernizing Africa using the natives and some of their own people (the French) to work .

When they came, they brought their own culture and traditions that were work related. They took breaks for tea, pensions, and good pay without giving these same rights to the African people. The arrogance of French infuriated the native people who got tired working for nothing and they went on a strike. As I said prior, immigration is seen in different ways and one of the ways it shows up is within economic problems for the African people. The French arriving and creating jobs is one positive aspect of their immigration into Africa, but the discrimination in worker rights and low pay are the negative aspects of it.

A character by the name of Doudou has an argument with his supervisor and asks why they do not receive the ten minute tea breaks. Doudou’s boss answers back: “Go and make yourself white and you can have ten minutes” (pg. 149) Beyond the obvious racial hatred, here we see the unfair working conditions created by the immigration of the Europeans. One big negative effect of immigration is seen though the character of N’Deye Touti. N’Deye Touti is a smart young woman who before the strike went to a teacher’s training school. This young lady was very educated in

European geography and knew perfect French. However, she did not know anything about her own country. “But she had never read a book by an African author-she was quite sure that they could teach her nothing. ”(pg 58). Here it is shown how immigration has played a negative effect on her. We see that she does not appreciate her country and that she does not respect the literature of her country’s writers because she thinks they can’t teach her anything. She, as a person, does not know anything about her place of birth and this is a negative impact of immigration on her.

The final work that will be looked at is Brother, I am Dying, and this amazing work is the best example of immigration and its negative impact on the kids and family. From the age of four, Danticat Edwidge came to think of her uncle Joseph as her second father. She lived in Haiti, but the country was going through turmoil so her parents left to America to search for a better life style. Until the age of twelve, the only interaction Dantcat and her little brother (Bob) have with their parents is through letters.

At the age of four, her mother left to America to help their dad with work. Danticat recalls the moment in this way: When it was time for my mother to board the plane, I wrapped my arms around her stockinged legs to keep her feet from moving. She leaned down and unballed my fists as Uncle Joseph tugged at the back of my dress, grabbing both my hands, peeling me of her. “Kalm,” he said. “Calm yourself. ” And for a moment his voice, deep, firm, did pacify me. After all, it seemed that he and Tante Denise would now be in charge of us. They would be our parents.

But what if our mother went away and never came back? Just like our father. Panicked, I leaped out of Uncle Joseph’s arms and ran right to my mother, pressing my face against her legs. I pushed him back as he tried to grab me again. Having run drom Tante Denise, Bob was also on the floor pounding his tiny fists against the cold tiles, bawling. His face was covered with some phlegm he had spit up. Answering the final boarding call, my mother hurried away, her tear-soaked face buried in her hands. She couldn’t bear to look back. (pg56-57).

This passage alone shows you how traumatized the kids were already with losing one parent, and now they have to see another parent leave and not know if she will ever come back for them. The psychological damage that’s done to the kids is tremendous. At twelve years old, Danticat and Bob are finally reunited with their parents and go to America. As they say their final good-byes, Danticat and Bob notice their Uncle is really sad and Danticat’s dad says “One papa happy, one papa sad. ” (pg 111). As we see here through this wonderful novel, immigration is one of the biggest issues Danticat has in her childhood.

The psychological and emotional effects are easily seen in the way the kids act. As we see here, immigration brings many obstacles and hurdles even though it is done with good intentions. Once you surpass the obstacles, however, you may end up in a much better place financially but may be damaged emotionally and psychologically. Immigration is one of harder topics to talk about for me because I personally think it was one of the worst decisions my parents have ever made and to this day I still don’t know if I agree with it.

I came here when I was nine years old, and at twelve I was already working for the super of my building in order to have my own money. I was never able to stop working a job because it was necessary for my family. My sister and I grew up by ourselves – mom was either working, in school getting a new degree, or at home taking care of the house or studying. As kids, we never got the attention that we needed, we never received the love that I think every child should receive, we never got the motivation that most parents provide for their children – we just knew what we had to do, we knew what was expected of us and we did it.

At eleven years old, I was taking care of my sister (who was seven at the time). I made breakfast for her, dressed her up, and made sure she had everything she needed for school. Sometimes I even had to fix her hair for her and walk her. Furthermore, I would have to pick her up from school and make sure she ate and did her homework. We would only see our mom for an hour or two a day since she always came home late after she was finished with work or school.

These are just a few of the reasons of why I find immigration a negative thing. In my opinion if you have an average lifestyle in the place you live, you should stay put and not bother immigrating because in the end you may lose something more important (such as your family) and only gain a material thing such as money. Even to this day I have a hard time telling my mom that I love her; not because of the fact that I don’t, but because I was never raised to say it and now I feel uncomfortable when I say such a thing to her.

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