Those of Us, The Other Diaspora Collective
There are those of us who immigrated to this country with next to nothing and now find ourselves accomplished—the American Dream is imprinted on our bodies. The endless labor, the immense overtime, the never-ending exhaustion. The sacrifices in our relentless, all-consuming investment in the work ethic.
Those of us who arrived with almost nothing and have experienced socioeconomic mobility—the benefits that the social structure extended to us we intimately know. We were largely spared the specter of discrimination (the normative ones with minor scratches mostly). Granted privileges exclusively reserved for immigrants from Europe. No one speaks about the multiple breaks we received, our collective secret.
And those of us “successful” immigrants—the fellow immigrants who achieved alternatively we recognize. Highly qualified professionals who opted to live modestly rather than partake in cutthroat unethical practices; rather than play the game. Hard-working individuals excluded, even expelled, from the ruthless labor market, devoted instead to nonglamorous, underpaid jobs: independent researchers, freelance writers, artists, caregivers.
Those of us. We acknowledge fellow immigrants––both those of the past and our contemporaries––whose work ethic paralleled ours yet their successes were derailed by the political and the corporate establishment. By speaking up against social injustices––pioneers in defending democratic political principles––they paid dearly for rocking the boat. Some with their lives––we honor Louis Tikas. Others, marginalized outcasts––we remember those persecuted by McCarthyism. And those by a less sanctioned but nevertheless insidious system.
Those of us who had nothing yet accomplished something—we whisper among ourselves about those things we so well know—our failures (oh these grave failures, we dare not confess even to ourselves); our triumphs, our silences, our quiet dreams…
Those of us. The post-1970s Greek/American immigrants. Aging in the suburbs. Aging, period. What was it all about, we ask?
In the age of the pandemic when questions of mortality press, the question forces itself, what was it all about? There is no ethnic story to represent us. No diaspora identity story either.
In the age of heritage, sugarcoated ethnic stories outrage us. The pride in struggle & success exhausts us, ages us. So tiring, infuriating, in its inattention on––its refusal, in fact, to recognize––how it harms people who have been struggling (struggling generation-after-generation with an eye on the prize) to only be stepped on, degraded, killed by insidious systems. What to do? Our wrinkles look at each other knowingly.
Us. What is next? Next to us. And far away. Others who made it differently. Others, the dissidents. Others who resisted, others who were destroyed. Others, alternatives. Others, the forgotten people. Non-normative others. Greek/Americans of various colors, accents, styles, shades. Here. In Greece. In other diasporas. With those who are dehumanized, unfairly persecuted, in solidarity.
Us, what is next, we know. To name. Not an identity. Not a culture. But to assert a position. Speak historically. About us. About others. About those in the past, and those in the present. This speaking makes a collective, animates The Other Diaspora Collective, an alliance of relevance. They work for this accomplishment: our words, our public stance, our directive. This doing, I would call, a matter of substance, a badge of pride.
There are those of us. Others.
May 25 – June 1 2020