• Sharon To

Quote of the Week: "Immigrants, We Get the Job Done"

Another week, another inspirational and awe-inspiring Hamilton quote!

This line in particular really strikes a chord with me. The older I’ve gotten and the more conscientious I’ve become about race, culture, and privilege, the more frustrating it is to time and time again see major contributors to the growth of our society, be they Black Americans, Asian Americans, or other people of BiPOC heritage be not just under-appreciated but antagonized for their mere existence.


Whatever anyone’s gripes may be about the historical accuracy of Hamilton (but let’s be real, it wasn’t trying to claim it was 100% historically accurate), it can’t be denied that our country was built on the backs of immigrants. Everywhere I turn, I see people from marginalized communities hustling to make their way, whether it’s finding a way to just barely survive, or trying to clamor through the socioeconomic barriers to set their families and future generations up for success. I witness colleagues fight tooth and nail for mere acknowledgement that they’re not worthless, let alone recognition for the amazing work that they do. And I see people who were raised bathed in privilege from socioeconomic comfort and identity certainty. I never realized what a privilege it must be to be sure of your place in the world, particularly when it’s at the top. I never realized that people ever were sure of their place in the world.


I hear it said about so many marginalized groups that we have to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good. This is true for women living in a man’s world. This is true for Black and colored people living in a White country. But was this nonsense fed to us in some attempt to trick us into working extra hard but expecting less in return, as if that was just the way things were and all we could do was accept it? Maybe. But the thing that I respect the most about the immigrant culture that I’ve grown up in is that hard work is a given. It’s not necessarily that we expect less in return, but rather that we don’t make decisions tit for tat. Our actions are not precursors for the rewards we expect or feel entitled to; we get the job done because that’s just what we do.


I run a company that was started by two Asians (myself included) and one White person. At no fault of his own, the White male in our group is always the first to be acknowledged, is always the one to whom questions and answers are directed, and the only one who never has his authority or his contributions to the company questioned or doubted. Whether we’re speaking to potential partners or customers, presenting ourselves at fairs, or even working with internal advisors, my Asian colleague and I receive hardly a glance and are pretty much only spoken to when we initiate and demand attention. And even then it’s fleeting as the focus is then turned back to our White colleague. Both of my peers work extremely hard, and we all pull our weight. I don’t need to bask in the spotlight, in fact I prefer working hard in the background, but it’s frustrating and confounding that this treatment is the default. That unless I stomp my feet, my position is questioned while there are people out there who don’t have to work as hard to prove themselves, that it’s just a given for them. I don’t need a party or a prize for the work I do, but it’s not the reason I do it, but a little respect surely goes a long way and isn’t too much to give.


I’m tired of being passed over and ignored because authority is always given by default to the white man in the room. I’m tired of having timidity and weakness being attributed to me because I’m Asian, of being treated like the worthless immigrant in the room even though I was born here, of seeing my peers experience the exact same things. I’m tired of the presumptions that we have nothing to say, that we make no contributions, that we have no value when we are the ones pulling the strings backstage; when we are the ones spending sleepless nights organizing, planning, worrying; when we put all the pressure on our shoulders to make the right decisions, the right calls, because we can’t afford to make a mistake.


We are immigrants, we are descendants of immigrants, and we get the job done. And it’s time that the world recognizes that.


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