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We Bengalis have rooted ourselves in all 50 states. We flew across the pond some 8,000 miles, planted ourselves on American soil, and are now budding and blossoming as this nation’s finest leaders, creators, writers, educators, performers — you name it.
America is nowhere close to being perfect. 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic and BLM protests have shed light on the egregious systematic inequalities that were deliberately designed to elevate certain people while subjugating others.
In many ways, we are part of those who are elevated.
This generation of Bengalis is privileged to live in America. We are privileged compared to our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters, who live in a country that cannot or does not offer freedoms as readily. We are privileged in terms of the opportunities available to us; in terms of the quality of education that is available to us; in terms of the democratic legal and electoral system that give us some say in what we get in this country; in terms of the quality control of construction and engineering of the buildings we live; in terms of the quality of air that we breathe; in terms of the internet connectivity we receive.
Privilege is relative: it’s based on who you are comparing yourself to. As POC navigating life in a white-majority America, we are not as privileged as our white counterparts. However, one thing is for sure — we have it much better than most people in BD. We are only one degree of separation apart from our parents who grew up in Bangladesh, but the contrast in our lifestyles and opportunities is stark.
Our parents came to America in search of better opportunities and freedom. For them, even the job opportunities and ability to vote for who you want without death threats is huge progress. For those of us who were born and/or grew up in the States, this is just the beginning. We have so many things to change in America. Our generation has grown up in America and has every right to criticize her. While the 4th of July is meant to celebrate America, let us not give up on any fights for a more equitable society.
But the American Dream is still alive for many of our parents, who look at us and see how we are progressing and making ourselves a part of America. While some of the privileges listed above were not available or accessible to them (education, opportunities), our parents came here in hopes that we can make use of them. We will continue their American Dream.
Bengalis of NY may have started in New York, but by no means is limited to just New York, or even America. Bengalis are all over. This project was taken on as some effort to prove to ourselves that “Yes, Bengalis also exist in places like South Dakota, Alabama, Montana or Utah,” all of whom may have started out in a large city — but have moved for various reasons (housing, higher education, lifestyle).
We write this from New York City (which houses the greatest number of Bengalis in all of the US) — but look beyond and you will find us in every corner, crevice, cranny and nook of America: our new home and our future children’s new home.
You are looking at the future generation of Bengalis all over America.