Desert Journey

Ignorance in America

As I opened the door to the double wide [1], the old rusted hinges screamed to be oiled. Tom was sitting in his recliner, posted in front of the television. He had lost his job three months ago. It was due to the “bad economy,” he always said. I had not seen him move from the chair, except to get his unemployment checks. The recliner had holes in it so you could see the metal springs; patches of cotton were growing out of the holes like batches of cauliflower. I went over to the sink to get a glass of water, when he called me over to him. The television was flashing highlights of a previous Nascar race. “ Did ya know that some dirty mexis moved in down the street? There goes the neighborhood aye,” he said angrily, as he wiped the chewing tobacco spittle from his unshaven chin. “ I’ve got to do some homework,” I said as I went to my room and shut the door behind me. “Those spic b*stards are the reason this country is going to hell!” His words burst through my door like a racist SWAT team. I sank to my bed knowing there was nothing I could say to change how he was; this was a battle I could not win. His ignorance beat me in the head like a hammer.

This was the reality I was forced to be surrounded by for 18 years of my life. I grew up and lived in rural Michigan, where almost everyone is white and inherited their WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant) ignorance from their WASP ignorant parents. There was a complete lack of diversity, and when it did rarely appear, it was readily met with hate and discrimination. The Confederate flag was commonly seen flying from front porches and on bumper stickers.

Today, too many Americans choose to close their minds and remain ignorant and apathetic to the struggles and the hardships of the rest of the world, particularly immigrants. This view needs to change so the unnecessary sacrifices and discrimination of immigrants end immediately. Webster’s Handy College Dictionary Fourth Edition defines ignorance as “having little or no knowledge; unlearned.” I desperately needed to escape the ignorance and unaccepting nature of rural Michigan. Consequently, I “got the hell out of dodge” and moved to Chicago, Illinois.

Surviving in Chicago has enabled me to meet a vast array of people. I have lived in a Hispanic neighborhood and worked as a line cook, so I am constantly surrounded by Latinos. I have had the pleasure and privilege of becoming very close with many different Latinos from all over Latin America. I am always interested about their journeys as to how they got to Chicago, Illinois.But even though I am very close with them, they are extremely reluctant to divulge any information regarding their journeys. However, I am persistent to know the truth about the hardships and struggles it takes to get to America.  One story has stuck out to me in particular. I bugged my friend “Luis” like an annoying “mosca[2]” for weeks. I had to take him to the bar after work one late night and buy him four rounds of drinks before he would divulge anything. When he finally did, a waterfall of what true sacrifice truly is poured from his mouth.

The sun came down on him like a thundering drum, left him beaten and drained of life itself. His “coyote” abandoned him. The smuggler took what was left of his money and left him nothing but the desert heat. However, Luis had come too far to give up. The future was within his reach, dancing in front of him on the horizon. He dragged his feet through the sand, hopelessly wandering. His only thoughts were of the woman he left behind and the family growing inside of her.

His voice trembled as he told me this story. The tone in his voice told me that he had almost sacrificed his very life to get to America and provide a better life for his family. When I heard Luis’ tragic tale my heart wept, and I tried to tell him in broken Spanish how much his story had moved me. I wondered to myself, had my own Irish ancestors risked and sacrificed as much as the Latinos are presently doing today? The Irish came in droves because of the potato famine that scourged their country. They crossed the ocean to America, hoping to find a new life inside of her. However, they were greeted with a mixture of thrown insults and rocks on the docks of the port towns. They were viewed as undesirables. They were refused employment. They were deemed white n*ggers.

Today, this seems hard to imagine. The Irish survived how any culture survives when they are taken over or are away from their homeland: by banding together and eventually becoming integrated in their present society. How many casualties and sacrifices must be made before America accepts Latinos and other immigrants and views them as equal and valued members of society? Today, too many Americans choose to close their minds and remain ignorant and apathetic to the struggles and hardships of the rest of the world, particularly immigrants trying to become American. I cannot understand how Tom and the rest of ignorant America can’t look into the mirror and see that their ancestors had at one point been in the same situations as the very people they discriminate against.  As part of the youth of today, I know my generation is going to make a change to end the discrimination. Ignorance is defined as “having little or no knowledge; being unlearned.” To end this American ignorance we simply need to do one thing: Educate.

Written by Mark Garland, Eng 100 K1, Fall 2010

[1] Trailer house

[2] white person


A Moment of Learning

People often have moments in their lives that dramatically change their way of thinking and how they will continue to live their life. These moments are called learning moments. I experienced my most memorable learning moment the day I found out about my aunt’s death. She passed almost a year ago, but I can remember it as if it happened yesterday. The message that I received that day will forever be instilled in me and it has already altered my way of thinking. It just hurts that I had to get the message through a death.

The day that my aunt died started off just like any other day for me. I went to my first class and went to the library right after it.The whole day my concentration was on an upcoming test that I had. For some reason I found it hard to fully get into studying, and after about an hour of trying, I decided to give it a break and check my Facebook page. Being away from home I didn’t get to talk to my family as much as I would have like to, but through Facebook I was able to find out things that were going on with the family. This helped me when I became home sick or when I needed to talk to someone I trusted.

I checked my messages and friend requests, but there was nothing new or interesting so I prepared to log out of my page. Just before I clicked on the log out button an Instant Message from my little cousin popped up. The message said that everything was messed up. I didn’t know what she meant, so I asked her. When I read her returned message I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My head started spinning and I felt faint. I couldn’t believe my own eyes. I just knew that someone was playing a horrible trick on me, but it wasn’t the case. The fact that I was finding out the death of my aunt through a Facebook message tore me up. The tears that I shed blocked out everything around me, and they blurred out all the rest of the messages that my cousin sent me on my computer screen.

So many things went through my mind as I sat in the library crying to myself. The main thing being that I would never see my aunt again and tell her how much I loved her. I had ample amount of chances to tell her how much I appreciate her, but I never took them. I will never get those chances back and I have to live with the decisions that I made. If I could do it all over again, I would, and I would release all the love that I have in my heart for my aunt and cover her in it. The lesson that I learned was simple but great; it is to tell the people in your life how much you love them because you never know when their time or your time could be up.

Written by Tysheena Taylor, Eng 100 F, Fall 2010