The system was rigged against them – but it didn’t matter.
The system only accepted immigrants physically – as they drifted into Ellis Island, New Orleans, San Francisco – but, the acceptance ended there.
Your skin tone, your faith, your language was not accepted.
Even the President of the United States scoffed as immigrants made their way to these shores.
Once here, the system was surely rigged against those that didn’t speak, or struggled with, English.
For those with a rudimentary education, the system was, without a doubt, rigged. They hadn’t a chance in the world.
Immigrants that possessed basic skills that would have them take the most dangerous work for menial pay were sitting ducks for this rigged system. Many would fall ill, suffer serious and debilitating injuries, and death.
The system was rigged if you had no one in America that came here previously, to gain early knowledge about the system. Your edge, your advantage, equaled less than zero.
The system was rigged with prejudice, bigotry, and savagery that few remember, but many experienced. In their declining years, many immigrants still felt the sting of undeserved hatred.
As author Ed Falco states:
“The decades go by, they turn into centuries, and we forget. We’ve forgotten the depth of prejudice and outright hatred faced by Italian immigrants in America.”
Yes, the system was surely rigged. But it didn’t matter.
As we go about our work-a-day worlds in this modern age, everyone faces obstacles, many of them self created. The mundane tasks we share threaten us, challenge us, and for the entitled among us, hurt our feelings.
We, for the most part, do not have to scrape by. To face the challenge of not understanding a language. To face unyielding bigotry on a daily basis. To not be accepted by a system that you willingly left your home for to be part of.
When challenges come up in your life or mine, we should remember what we don’t have to face in our day to day. We should remember that no matter the obstacle or challenge, we basically wake up into the lap of luxury every morning.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Absolutely. Many suffer in this country, in this world. We should always remember that.
But I can’t think of myself in any other way but privileged, as my immigrant family set it up that way for me – looking “the system” square in the eye, and after decades of unwavering persistence, the system backed down.
Like a dog, running down a grimy city street, tail tucked between its legs.
The system was no match for the gritty, determined immigrants that inhabited our past, and now color our dreams.
The system was rigged against them. It didn’t matter.
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