As we close out Immigrant Heritage Month this June, TCP staff celebrates by sharing their personal immigration stories in this two part series. Below, you’ll hear a poem from our Chief of Staff, Ruthie Bolotin.
Share your story with us here!
Living in Los Angeles
I have learned there’s a turn of phrase
for the ethnically ambiguous
in the film industry
as in the I can’t immediately tell
“What You Are”
group of people like me
who seem white…but…right?
I often wonder if I’m allowed to agree
Can the box I check itself be
Is there a box for the Shapiro Rok family?
Whiteness and identity complex
part of the whole of my complex identity?
My ethnicity is the stuffed dog
my mom brought over from Cuba
under the tarp when she was three
My heritage is the Yiddish her father
brought there from Poland overseas when he was six
My legacy is the children who flee
from Hitler to Castro to becoming white
who finally get to stay put under Trump
My legacy is recalling our past and
the path of Bashke, Basia, Berta
my mother’s father’s mother
who I used to think were all different people in my family tree
until I learned my ethnicity is three names on my gravestone
buried in diasporic earth far from my first
My privilege is assimilation
and my privilege is to taste matzah ball soup and ropa vieja
on the same night
the love I taste in my tia Ester’s specialities
in my tia’s recipes is my ethnicity
passed down as each generation
becomes both more and somehow less ambiguous
inheriting a new legacy of whiteness and of
distance of listening to stories and becoming witness now
My heritage is the new tragedy of bearing witness now
to the legacy of the children who flee