|A change from the traditional goodbye|
|Written by Abby Causer, Daily Vidette Columnist|
|Thursday, 03 May 2012 12:47|
In preparation for writing my last column, I looked back on some of my old work. In lieu of boring you with a sappy goodbye letter, I present to you a column that I wrote as my application for this job, but was not used in the paper until now:
So, the other day I had an exchange with a person that left me dumbfounded. I was talking to some acquaintances from my hometown.
They were asking me the usual questions about school — what year am I, what is my major, and so on. I told them that I was a political science major and they asked what I planned to do with that. I replied that I planned to go on to law school and study immigration law. The man then said, “You’d better be pushing them all back over the border where they belong,” doing a swatting motion with his hand as he spoke (obviously referring to the recent wave of Latin American immigration). After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I managed to stammer a response that was something along the lines of, “Actually no, I intend to provide services to help immigrants become documented.” In order to avoid seeing the vein in his neck pop out any further, I kindly left out the fact that I would like to do civil rights work concerning Latin American immigrants as well.
Being from a small farm town like I am, I unfortunately hear misguided comments like these quite frequently.
But still, the blatant racism never ceases to amaze me. How is it that in 2010, it is a popular thought to liken more than an entire continent of people, a group of several nationalities, races, and religions, to something less than human? In accordance with “push them all back where they belong,” I also hear ignorant people refer to anyone of Latin American descent as Mexican.
Even worse, I hear people say things like, “Psh, push one for English!? If I wanted to speak Mexican I wouldn’t live in America!” To all of these people, I would like to give one simple lesson. Not all Latin Americans are Mexican. Not all Mexicans or any other Latin American nationalities are undocumented. The language is called Spanish, and not all Latin American countries speak it.
And, speaking of, I have to take issue with the term “illegal immigrant” or harsher “illegal alien.”
Of course, “alien” is simply another term for foreign, but using that term makes it even easier to see immigrants as non-human. They become the “other,” and the “other” is always an easy group to make an enemy out of. “Illegal” implies that a person’s very being or existence is illegal, making them a criminal. Say criminal, and many Americans will conjure up imagery of CSI-style murderers, rapists, robbers, and other inherently evil characters.
If all Latin Americans are perceived to be “illegal Mexicans” with the aforementioned connotations, only the devastating and dividing effects of racism can follow. We learned in grade school that skin color and religion should make no difference in how we treat others. So a possible lack of documentation or speaking a different language is certainly not grounds for less than human treatment either. How many times will we let history repeat itself?
I understand the idea that people feel threatened by suddenly being forced into contact with a culture they don’t know much about, but in the past, Americans have risen above that fear. Having to press one more button to indicate what language you speak is not too much to ask, especially in a nation that loves its texting. Most immigrants are simply people looking for a better life. Why can’t we now embrace what we would have normally called the American dream?
Oddly, this man mentioned above and countless others of the same mindset would likely call themselves proud Americans. But America is supposed to be the melting pot, made by, of, and for immigrants. Well, we are not giving these immigrants a very warm welcome, are we?
I wrote that in 2010. I am proud to say that the same issues of human rights and human dignity are still very important to me. I will graduate a week from today and will go on to University of Illinois Law School in the fall with the same goals in mind. I thank you for finding my opinions worthwhile and even if you didn’t always agree with me, I hope that you found these dialogues engaging and informative.