Finding myself frustrated after six years of unemployment, I was at the temp agency in town doing my paperwork for a prospective job. They needed my North Carolina birth certificate, so I went home to look for it, instead, I found myself staring at my daddy’s refugee papers. Here, I found my beginning: a grass green Promissory Note issued to my daddy for $640. I stopped and I began to weep. I had the typical American childhood filled with my Uncle dressing up like Santa Claus, yes, Santa is Hmong. Birthday parties with the pointy hats and echoes of close your eyes and make a wish now. Everyone knows how challenging school can be but I beat the statistical odds and graduated as a Patriot with Honors and AIG from Freedom High School. I ended up as a Demon Deacon for Wake Forest University and by the time I managed to graduate in 2010, both my parents had lost their jobs at Southern Devices-Leviton and Capri Industries.
If I could encompass the hurt in my heart for the heavy weight that I feel for not being able to find a steady career into words, all I could muster would be Dr. King’s words, “In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
I’m still waiting for my check to bounce. I rather wish I was in a boxing match because at least I’d know who my opponent would be (Cinderella Man). How could I articulate the echoes of Dr. King’s words on that day because I am still paying that Promissory Note for my father. A poor Hmong village boy who was left with nothing but a musket rifle his father used to hunt when America decided to pull out of Southeast Asia.
My mother and I don’t know how to look each other in the face sometimes and express the dismay in our hearts because we don’t know how to do anything but cling to one another. How can you possibly know what you just don’t know? Please heed me in this turbulent climate of powerlessness the only thing I’ve been able to turn to has been writing my once broken grammar into my broken hearted thoughts of saying, “I don’t know this country, though I speak the language, no one understands my English or what I mean.”
As I write this story, I’m still unemployed with a stack of student debt accruing interest. My language is not of war but of survival now. What must I do to get a decent job?