No, Your Immigrant Parents Aren’t Liberals

Stop calling them that.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

If you’re a leftist by any degree, maybe you found yourself being forced to watch Joe Biden’s inauguration with the rest of your family. (I did.)

My mother and father were nearly in tears from the happiness of Trump of no longer being President. They truly believe that Biden is wholly better. It’s painful to watch at the very least.

My uncle called to ask if I and my brothers were watching this ‘historic moment’.

I tried walking out the living room at one point without a word, only for my mom to yell at me for not being happy.

“Aren’t you proud to be an American?”

I spent the past election cycle getting into debates, and heated arguments at times, over my disdain for Biden and liberal democrats.

“So what, you rather have Trump?” was a common retort from my dad.

Then you go online and find liberal democrats making the same arguments to defend any attack on Biden or Kamala Harris’ political records. It was incessant. As if being the alternative to Trump made them immune from critique.

As if it wasn’t bad enough dealing with the constant identity politics online when Harris was named as VP, I found my mom celebrating it too.

“I don’t like her, but it’s good to have brown people back in the White House.”

She really believes that. That it gives other POC a chance.

At first, I tried to reason with my folks, and explain to them why I felt the way I did. That only POC who agree with centrist politics will get a chance, not anyone else. That Biden was just another establishment Dem who wasn’t all that different from the GOP.

My parents did like Bernie, but they felt he was ‘unrealistic’ and ‘too liberal’. I tried to explain how much is being stolen from us in terms of labor, and they agreed but said that in the end, that’s just how things are.

It’s easy to want to group your parents, if they’re anything like mine, with Biden/Harris fanboys on Twitter. They say all the same things and believe the same things. But the difference is my parents are immigrants.

Both naturalized American citizens, my parents believe in the American Dream. And it’s not their fault. It took me a while to get it, but it’s starting to make sense.

For most, if not all immigrant parents, who come from war-torn countries and corruption, of course, America looks like a beacon of light.

My parents saw political opponents murdered and blatant election rigging back home. One person would remain in power for decades while her opponent was jailed. By comparison, American democracy looks democratic.

If you're an American born and raised child of immigrants, you have to understand just what vastly different lives our parents come from. The things that seem obvious and corrupt to us appear like peace and competence to them.

They come with their own emotional and cultural baggage, informed by their own experiences growing up. Religion often plays a role too. And internalized racism and bigotry is one hell of a thing to unlearn.

Western society has done an amazing job in making itself look like a ‘city upon on a hill’ to many citizens of the Global South. To the point that it’s a point of pride to live in the West.

For them, voting is an honor. Being a citizen of this country is an honor. It’s really hard to sit them down sometimes and explain the concept of settler colonialism and that they're unintentionally taking part in it.

Many of our parents aren’t concerned with revolution and social uprising. They just want to be able to go to work and put food on the table for us. Leftist theory is the last thing they would consider consuming at the end of a long day. And that’s okay.

I’ve learned to let my parents hold their political views. They still get upset when I say things like I wouldn’t celebrate Muslims in police departments or the military. But it’s representation! Trust me, mom, it’s not the representation you want.

But labeling them as liberals doesn’t do them justice either. My mom isn’t the WASPY mom tweeting about proud she is that her daughter has a woman to look up to with BLM in her bio.

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Zara Kabir

aspiring writer and lover of cats. trying to make sense of life, one day and writing session at a time. she/her and 22