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And I knew that in America I could find peace and true love and be left alone to pursue my dream.I would make but one demand on my new country: that its inhabitants place no obstructions in my path.My concern is that you and your book function as deputized stand-ins for the black male and the black experience in America, respectively. Because I write as a black immigrant who chose to live in the United States, whose biggest hope as a child was to become an American citizen, and who chose to embrace the American Dream you condemn, please consider these words my Declaration of Independence—an independence that only my beloved America could have given to me.

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The most beleaguered people on the planet, the Jews, who have faced persecution since their birth as a people, are a living refutation of your claim.

When they labored in slavery in Egypt, clamored in Palestine, made magnificent contributions to human civilization in European capitals, sojourned in Africa and Asia, and founded the modern State of Israel, no one gave these heroic people an affirmative-action plan to work anywhere.

I was eager to publish poems and novels about the Caribbean—novels that Americans would come to love.

I was a gay man escaping the blight of Jamaican homophobia.

We celebrated the American way, poor as we all were, by buying him gifts (including beer and a dictionary), because in America, envy of achievement is not de rigueur. I later learned that Thai did indeed, 20 years on, earn his baccalaureate, magna cum laude, not because he had to, but because he could and wanted to. n the 32 years I have lived in this great country, I have never once actively fought racism.

I have simply used my own example as evidence of its utter stupidity and moved forward with absolute metaphysical confidence, knowing that the ability of other people to name or label me has no power over my self-esteem, my mind, my judgment, and—above all—my capacity to liberate myself through my own efforts.I recall that day as the first of my true and authentic life.My glamorous grandmother was decked out in pearls, high heels, and a silk dress.I expected no special treatment because, as an American, I was already part of an exceptional process.My ideas, I had decided on the flight over, would one day be taught in colleges and universities. All the while, I found other dreamers—immigrants and aspirants whose emergent identities were being forged in the crucible of their adopted country.I will tell you presently the extent to which that willed decision became reality, and why it was possible only in the United States of America. I worked up to 45 hours a week, sometimes juggling three jobs at once, while attending university full-time and then earning a scholarship to complete my Ph. They were immigrants who, like me, worked hard and graduated magna cum laude from their universities.

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