Home » Cultural Differences, Economic Opportunity, Eyes of Children, The Face of America

America: Streets Paved in Opportunity

25 May 2009 No Comment

As she stood churning, her private parts ached in pain from the red hot chili peppers that had been forced into the unspeakable parts of her body that morning as punishment for “talking back.”  On that sun-drenched afternoon in I’satta’s small village in Liberia, West Africa, the women churned cream from goats milk and talked about what life in the United States would be like.   Early that morning, Okie Tall had returned to the village from a coveted trip to New York City.  All in the village were in awe.   When the women asked him directly if it was true that the streets in America are paved with gold,  he had pursed his lips, raised his brow,  and making a “knowing” face,  had gestured downward toward his polished, black leather shoes.  Shiny, devoid of any dust whatsoever, the shoes proved that in fact, the streets in America are paved with gold.   It was that day that I’satta knew she would one day immigrate to the United States.

As internet access expands, in time, this belief may be relegated to history.  For now, though, the pervasive belief by many peoples throughout the world that the streets is the USA are paved with gold holds.   The belief is even perpetuated by those who “know.”  Hope in something better is both a crutch for the hard places in life and a glimpse of potential joy.  Okie had both self interest (continuing awe by his extended village family) and communal interest in maintaining the fiction.

Today, an immigrant with ten years of life experience in the United States, I’satta knows better.  There is no gold on the streets.  If there were, she would not have endured the struggles of paying for a home and sending her five children to private school.  I’satta’s hope today is that one day she will be able to visit Liberia and provide for the orphans there- especially the girl orphans, who continue to be mistreated the way she was.  A thing that would never happen in the United States.  It is very likely that I’satta will one day realize that dream, too.  Because, though the steets in America are not paved with gold, they are paved with opportunity.  In America, often short on money, I’satta has never been short on opportunity.

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