The things said (and left unsaid) about the USA

Clara Freitas, Assistant Opinion Editor

One of the first things that I learned about in 6th grade was the paleolithic period. It was about a week after the beginning of middle school, and I was excited because I wanted to be an archaeologist, or a paleontologist or something in that line. Although I was disappointed to learn that humans never lived with dinosaurs, I learned one interesting word: nomad. “Nomads,” said my teacher “are people who are always moving from one place to another.” After school, I went to my dad smiling and told him “Dad, I learned that we are nomads.”

I’ve lived in seven different cities, spread between three different countries, in a total of eleven houses. Moving away was never something out of the ordinary, distance was never an issue for my relationships, and language never barred me from having new friends and experiencing another culture. But the last move, which happened one year ago, was a little different from the others.

A couple of years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, discussed the danger of “single stories,” also known as stereotypes. “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete,” she said in a TED Talk. It gives the wrong perception of individuals, a community, a culture. America’s single story, in my community, was not necessarily bad, and it does not lessen the many qualities of this culture. But it is a proof of the danger that Chimamanda was talking about.

What urged my parents to decide to move was mainly the realization that corruption occurred in all levels and institutions of government. But it was also the higher than ever crime rates, the more than 200,000 cases of zika and more than a million cases of dengue. It was the fact that one of the best universities of journalism couldn’t afford to continue the renovation of the ceilings, so they simply stopped. And America’s single story, in my community, is “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” These words, by James Truslow Adams, is the decades-old definition of the American Dream, and although today many Americans are skeptical of it, it is how many foreigners perceive this country. A year after the turning point of April 29, the day that I moved, it is harder than I expected to write about moving away and what has happened ever since. Probably because the last year was harder than I expected.

There are a lot of things people say when you tell them you are moving to America. That the schools are better, the streets are safer, that “maybe Obama can be our president, now that he’s leaving office”, and “isn’t everything, including this perfume that I’ve always wanted, or the latest iPhone, very cheap?”. And there are a lot of things people say to you when you move to America. They ask you where are you from, what language do you speak, have you ever been to Rio and did you play soccer?

But there are some things that no one ever tells you about America, and some things that you never expect to hear. You don’t expect to hear “This is America, speak English.” You don’t expect that your ethnicity or national origin build low expectations for your education, or that it will give space to people treat you differently. You don’t expect the cashier, who was nice moments before, stop smiling the moment they realize that you are foreign. And you don’t expect that who you are will bring more uncertainty than ever about the future.

However, as I said before, single stories are dangerous because they are incomplete. Although part of my year was difficult, there were other parts that could have never happened if I wasn’t in America. Being part of this newspaper and getting to know everyone that works in it was one of them, and today it is one of the best moments of my high school experience. Since April 29, I got to know people entirely different from anyone I knew in Brazil. I had the opportunity to challenge myself in class that I could never have in my old school. I spent my summer going to one of the most well-known museum in the world. I visited New York City, the city that I’ve wanted to visit since I was a little girl. And no matter how the day went, my parents and I have dinner, as late as 9pm, and we talk and laugh, as my dad tries to sneak food to my dog under the table.