Unnatural Causes: Becoming American

This portion of the documentary really showed the disillusion of the American Dream. When we think of the American Dream, we think that anyone can climb the ladder if they work hard. This is especially the case with immigrants; we expect them to work hard and climb the ladder like everyone else. However, the institutions, policy and general sentiment towards immigrants makes climbing the ladder practically impossible. A fact that I found striking is that 3 out of 4 people at the “bottom of the ladder” are still there 10 years later. In fact, immigrants often end up doing worse than they were when they arrived, especially in terms of health.

The video talks about how Latino immigrants arrive in American with the best health of anyone in the country. It is suggested that the strong emphasis on family and community among Latinos helps them in their struggle. This is compared to most Americans (1 in 4), who say they have no one to discuss serious matters with and thus suffer from social isolation. This social isolation has serious effects on physical health outcomes, and can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and accelerates aging. In our Multicultural Project, we share the story of Cara, a fictional character, who experiences social isolation in college. The stress of feeling isolated affects her physical health and likely will affect her long-term health outcomes. This, unfortunately, is a common experience for students of color when entering predominantly white institutions in this country. The longer that immigrants are in America, the more at risk they are of feeling this same isolation, which is a chronic stress that familial support cannot fix on its own. After 5 years of being in America, immigrants’ rate of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and suicide all go up. The longer you’re in America, the tighter the connection between health and wealth becomes.

While the outcomes for immigrants seem dismal, the story of Kennett Square feels more promising. This organization links the immigrant population and emphasizes education and social programs. They hold meetings to share information about employment opportunities and resources. They also have a youth center to keep young people hopeful for the future. This is so important, and reminds me of what we learned about community-based learning and research. It is much more effective to include the community in discussions about policy change and rebuilding because they know what they need better than anyone. At Kennett Square, they are able to understand what the immigrant community really needs and provide them with the resources that will truly be helpful.

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