Monday, April 26, 2010

Fear of "Others"

The debate about immigration reform in this country is driven by the attitudes of liberals and conservatives toward immigrants.

Liberals, like myself, are generally open to the idea of a multicultural and multiracial society. When we look at immigrants today, we see people not unlike ourselves or our ancestors - people who are working hard to make a better life for themselves and their children. We feel an empathy with these people, even with those who may be here illegally, because we understand some of the hardships that have impelled them to make the difficult decision to leave their homes and loved ones and to emigrate to an alien country where they are not always welcomed. We see them as people who work and pay taxes in our country and thus contribute to society to the benefit of all of us. In return, they receive little protection or assistance.

Conservatives, on the other hand, hate the very idea of having alien-looking, alien-sounding people in this country. They see them as "others," not as people who have anything in common with them and their world view. Whether or not the immigrant is here legally, the conservative sees him as a drag and a leech on our society. They do not acknowledge any contributions from immigrants, least of all the fact that they are taxpayers. Conservatives - i.e., primarily, angry white males - are afraid of losing their dominant position in society. They are afraid of the rising power of the immigrants. They see their addition to our country as a way of diluting what they think of as "true American stock."

With such diametrically opposite views of immigrants and of the value of immigration to our country, it is very hard to see how the two sides will ever find common ground on which to establish equitable immigration reform. Like many other issues in our culture at the moment, it seems that we may just continue to agree to disagree, to the detriment of the country and to our civil society.

2 comments:

  1. Children are Watching

    by stopdainsanity2

    When I entered kindergarten – I was put into a class for the mentally retarded. Because my skin was brown my teacher assumed I did not speak English and required special bilingual support which was not available at the time. Yes – I was a Mexican-American citizen child AND I spoke English.

    It literally took 2 weeks for my parents to force the school to place me in the mainstream kindergarten class — even though I could respond to questions in English. At the time if was easier for frustrated- overworked teachers (not bad people) to send me to the special needs class – no questions asked – based on my skin color. Although the error was corrected, as a child I never lost the feeling I was not welcomed and somehow my rights as a citizen were not equal to those of white americans. Be careful – children are watching.

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  2. Indeed. A point well-made and well-taken, ncrown. Too often, it is so much easier to stereotype than to see the real person standing before us, but both we and that person are losers when we do that.

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