Hope and California: Two Minority Perspectives
Donna U. (Japanese American)
My grandmother was a picture bride who came to America to create her future. To sense the allure of chasing dreams, one only has to visit Angel Island — the Ellis Island of the West — and view the photos of the Japanese and Chinese immigrants hoping for a better life. My grandparents eventually settled in Colorado. They epitomized the strength of spirit that became part of my mother, who passed it on to me.
I first visited California when I was a young child. Coming from land-locked Colorado, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean made me feel the power of possibilities and I decided right then and there that I was going to live in the Golden State when I grew up. Consequently, I moved to California in the early 1980s; went back to Denver for a decade and then headed back to California to raise my son.
For me, California represents hope on many levels — especially the San Francisco Bay Area. Having been the one who was ‘different’ throughout my childhood (Denver having a rather homogeneous population), it is nice to blend into a community where I am one of many people of diverse backgrounds, cultures and nationalities. San Francisco has a strong Asian community and, while I’m not Asian enough to feel a sense of belonging, it’s nice to feel that I’m part of a larger whole. Plus, I can blend into a crowd, which continues to amaze me.
In raising my son, he benefits partially from the more progressive times we live in but also from being in California. I was raised being told I was different and therefore had to exceed to succeed. My mother was the first in her family to leave the farm and pursue an education. She pushed me to do better than she did and is proud that I’ve achieved my own level of success. My son, however, faces less pressure to perform — a benefit for many yonsei (fourth-generation Japanese Americans) — because just being ‘normal’ is not considered underperforming.
Living in San Francisco invokes a pervasive optimism that you can achieve your dreams. Being able to call one of the most beautiful cities in North America home is not only cool, it’s also permission to extend the boundaries. For my son and me, nothing is prescribed and anything is possible.
Even after all these years in the area, as I drive to work each day across the Golden Gate Bridge, I am awestruck. I continue to hope for the future, while living the possibilities of today. Hope does indeed spring eternal.