A sentence can change your life.
I will share with you one of the greatest moments in my life. It happened when I was in elementary school in Los Angeles, California. My fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Dean Arnold, offered me a sentence that changed my life. He said: “You don’t have to be like a [white] American since you weren’t born here. Be yourself.”
I felt a huge weight off my shoulders the minute he told me to celebrate who I am and on my own terms.
I don’t know why Mr. Arnold felt compelled to tell me that I should be myself instead of adapting poorly to something else that would end up costing me my precious identity.
All children in Finland and in any country that respects human rights, irrespective if one or both of their parents are from another country, should be given the opportunity to be themselves. They should not only be allowed to celebrate their otherness without fear but encouraged to do so.
One important point, however, Mr. Arnold’s advice strengthened my sense of belonging in the U.S.