I have an unpopular opinion. I don’t believe immigrant children owe their parents anything. Immigrant children should not spend the rest of eternity redeeming “sacrifices” because of guilt or obligation. This perpetuates a cycle of codependency, martyrdom, and victimhood. I’ve written about eldest immigrant daughter guilt where I described how gendered expectations within immigrant groups is weaponized against the eldest daughter. I also shared how this type of debilitating guilt manifests itself in my personal, professional and intimate relationships. Eldest immigrant daughters belong to an oppressed class that is often ignored in the mainstream feminist discourse. I launched GabarIskuFilan to introduce a paradigm shift and increase the visibility of unique intersections and experiences I face as the eldest immigrant daughter.
Were they really sacrifices, though? Isn’t it a parents’ legal, financial and moral obligation to ensure the provision, protection and an enhanced quality of life is available for their child? There’s nothing extraordinary about providing a better life. The circumstances may be extenuating, however, it’s the right of every child to have access to quality education, stable housing, extracurriculars, and supportive environments. I refuse to be grateful for basic human rights. No, I’m not sorry. Celebrating the bare minimum has not gotten me anywhere in life. Occupying a Black female body means I’m often bullied into having lower standards for myself. I’m told I shouldn’t speak out against the gender/racial wage gap, reproductive freedom, gender-based violence or financial exploitation I experience.
I am grateful for this life. If I were a 28-year old Somali woman living in the Somali regions right now, I would’ve been a child bride who is single-handedly providing for her eight children while working in a service role. I would be enduring physical, emotional and financial abuse by my husband. Instead, I have absolute control over my financial, legal and reproductive decision-making power. I can drive, I am childfree, and I’m able to travel the world solo on my own terms. I will never be forced into carrying a pregnancy so that I can secure permanent US residency, stable housing, and financial security. I’ve had exciting experiences during my solo travels in Costa Rica and Colombia. I thoroughly enjoy exercising my freedom, autonomy, and self-determination. I would’ve never had this life if my family did not make that split-second decision.
As a lifelong survivor of eldest immigrant daughter guilt, I can honestly say that my guilt was a result of internalizing messages of feeling unworthy about the life I have now. As a Black girl, I should be grateful for just crumbs. I shouldn’t demand better treatment or better pay. I should live the rest of my life redeeming the sacrifices of my parents even if that means I am never able to live for myself. Even if it means I am unable to pursue my goals. I have to ride in the backseat of my own life because someone made a sacrifice, and the entire world is doubting whether or not it was the right choice. As a radical feminist, I envision a world where Black women can live self-determined lives without violence, coercion or oppression. A world where we can roam freely without fear. I don’t believe my standards are high. I just live in a world that does.