All Americans Are Refugees
Now Americans know what it feels like to be wrongly judged based on the actions of their government.
By Amna Ijaz, Collin College
Dear Refugees (and any American reading this),
At this very moment, while you’re doing your best to survive and get through each day, thousands of miles away there are white men in suits haggling over legislation, deciding whether you are something this country can handle—whether you are a risk to our wellbeing or a friend.
They’re trying to decide, through their heartrending idealism, whether your life would make a worthy contribution to their fucked up idea of what America represents. They are making these decisions about you, when they barely even know you.
They don’t know you and the struggle you’ve been through, the horrors you’ve witnessed and the strength you carry. To them, you’re just a label, “just” a refugee. All around the world, the term has become a buzzword, as from news reports to Facebook posts, human suffering has been reduced to a label.
I know you are more than that; I know you are more than just a word. You are someone’s mother, sister, brother or father. You have hobbies and dreams. You went to school, or had a job, maybe even both. You also have fears and nightmares. You sound a lot like me.
The word holds so much weight, but Fox News spits it out every forty seconds, as if it were meaningless. Their overuse of the term desensitizes viewers to its meaning, disassociating the people from the label and letting those who oppose refugee settlements spew hatred without remorse. To them, you aren’t a person. To them, you’re just a Fox sound bite playing on repeat, yelling danger back at them.
These viewers aren’t inherently bad or evil; no one is born a racist or a bigot. It’s the world and the media that have shaped their belief systems, and, unfortunately for them, they won’t ever get to know or understand you.
I wonder whether these white men know what “refugee” even means. They’re making these world-shattering decisions about what you can and can’t do with your life without knowing a single fact about you.
To them, you are just an abstraction, colored by their fear and hate.
Idiots may be in charge of the country at the moment, and as sad and scary as that may be, it’s not going to be the case forever. You aren’t alone in your battle for freedom. The mainstream media may portray the American public as unwelcoming, but those views are misrepresentative of the population.
The media just panders to the extreme views of those who voice their opinions the loudest, not to those that are the most prevalent. The crazier your opinions are, the higher the ratings; “normal” attitudes are pushed aside, as the general public is left uninformed, thinking the country is on fire when it’s really not.
The United States was built by religious refugees, and every new immigrant group that has entered the country has faced some degree of racism. In the eighteenth century, when German immigrants were trying to move to the U.S., citizens considered them “too stupid” to fit in and learn the language. The Germans were suddenly a risk to the English language, and therefore a risk to society itself; however, we probably wouldn’t have had the Christmas or Easter traditions that we have today if it weren’t for German immigrants.
In the mid nineteenth century, the Know-Nothing Party was a political group opposed to any sort of Irish Catholic immigration, a similar dynamic to modern Republicans and Muslims. They were considered to be a threat to American values and society, as the Germans were before them and how Muslim refugees are today. It is understandable for people to be concerned over their safety, but doing so should not negate the potential benefit refugees could provide.
The United States has a history of discrimination, but that’s not what defines us. We are a nation built on the idea that anyone and everyone can come to build a better future for themselves. While everyone has their own idea of what this country represents, we will not stand for those who discriminate, especially those who feel that their safety is somehow above yours.
You aren’t alone in your struggle. People are here for you—fighting for you and protesting in the streets day and night. It’s not just here in America, it’s around the world. People are rooting for you, praying for your safety and an end to this nightmare.