By Garry Pierre-Pierre
Editor’s Note: This was originally published on CNN.com.
I will never forget the day I left my sun-drenched Caribbean homeland for the bright lights of New York. I was playing an intense pickup match of soccer, as we did most afternoons in soccer-crazed Haiti. My cousin crashed our game when he came for me. I was told to go home to shower because I was going to the United States. Game over.
What would have been a dream for most Haitian boys my age left me stunned. I walked home dejectedly and was whisked to the airport. It was June 24, 1975. By the evening I found myself in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where I settled quite well in that hardscrabble city of immigrants 20 miles south of New York.
In high school I listened to funk music, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and hung out at the Jersey Shore like any normal teenager. My first experience with racism was on the soccer field. As a fierce left-back, I made a hard tackle on an opposing player from Westfield, our rich and snobbish rival. “Get off me you f—–g n—-r,” he yelled at me as we rolled on the pitch. I followed him across the field and manhandled him so much that he was substituted.
Unfortunately, that was the first of many instances when racism would rear its ugly head. One night, while I was walking home from the Florida A&M University campus, a Tallahassee police officer stopped me and asked me to sit in the car awaiting the description of a suspect. They were looking for a 6-foot-2-inch black man. I’m 5 feet, 6 inches.
But despite its flaws, I truly believe America is the greatest nation on Earth, something I impart to my children. The Trump administration has done its best to test Americans like me, those who’ve chosen to be Americans. The President’s unrelenting assaults on immigrants are disturbing.
But, in the words of Woody Guthrie, “This land is your land, this land is my land. … This land was made for you and me.”
Garry Pierre-Pierre is a multimedia journalist and the publisher and founder of The Haitian Times. He is a former reporter for The New York Times.
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