What would the world’s oldest democracy do in an immigration/refugee crisis? The United States, an example for all other democratic nations, is in fact in a crisis right now- just turn on the news! You may hear that the solution is to build a wall, don’t let those “aliens” in, or that those people are gang members, rapists, terrorists, but is that what democracy sounds like? On Wednesday, March 27th, I attended a TedX event at Georgia State University’s Atlanta Campus to hear from people who study these topics and work with students at GSU, an immigration attorney, and a GSU student from Africa here on a student visa. The floor became open to questions and a lot of topics were quickly talked about. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no one at the event from an opposing side. Instead, everyone just agreed with each other. Although I learned a lot and will cover some important points in this writing, I would have learned a lot more if there had been someone to challenge these opinions.
First, what does it mean to be American? People have been asking this question since the 1700’s, but it is still important to ask today. Everyone agrees if you are born in America, you are American, but was America not founded by immigrants? American is not a skin color or a language, instead, the beauty of America is found in our great diversity. If that is the case, why must immigrants coming to America seeking that beautiful diversity, freedom, and opportunity have to pass a test? And if they pass this test, but have made a mistake in their past (as most of us have), they can be denied citizenship. This view that you must be perfect to become an American is the definition of ethnocentrism. It is not my definition of American.
Second, stop telling refugees to go back home. If they could, they would. Refugees have lost everything, their homeland destroyed by war, and all they want is some help. I would think that to promote democracy, America would help refugees as well as back those fighting for democracy in the war. If we don’t, if we close our borders and our resources to those who are only seeking freedom, terrorist groups like ISIS will gain greater territory, recruit more vulnerable people who have nowhere else to turn, and will destroy any hopes for democracy.
I would like to say Donald Trump is destroying our beautiful democracy, but he is not alone and the many people supporting his hateful, authoritarian leadership probably do not know exactly what they are contributing to. Do you not see his racist remarks on the news as people cheer him on? That is not equality. Do you not see the way he is treating people from just south of our border? ICE profiles people, can ask anybody on the street for their documentation, physically separate families by keeping parents in a detention center and their children in another, where all rights are taken away, where adults and children as well are being physically and emotionally abused? That is not freedom for all. Do you not see hate crimes on the rise? People taking Trump’s racist enthusiasm and feeling they are not wrong to take another life or bully people who look different from them or promote white supremacy groups? That is not our constitution. This is all right in front of your face, but you have to choose to see it. Our democracy is on the verge of collapse. What are you going to do about it?
My favorite part of the TedX event was when we discussed what we should do to help. Some of it is pretty simple. Promote education. Make people aware. Talk to people who are not like you. Hear their story. One great thing about our GSU campuses is that when you look around in your classroom or at an event, everybody looks different! We have huge diversity and we should all be taking advantage of that. In my opinion, the best way to promote democracy is to exercise our many rights protected by the Constitution. Use your freedom of speech and when your throat gets soar, rest, then use it again. That is my advice.