(March 19, 2017)
I’m an American because of immigration. By heritage linked to several countries in West & North Europe, and by marriage to China. What is done against immigrants and immigration today is done against me and my family as well, even as citizens.
Among my ancestors were Irish – Fitzpatrick, O’Connell, Freele. Although the exact circumstances of their arrivals in the US are not known to me, history suggests the conditions under which they came were not serene.
In other words, I am certainly descended from refugees. And immigrants who were discriminated against because of their nationality of origin, religion, and purported character issues. Circumstances that sound a lot like the rationalizations for the ban on people from certain countries (and clearly on the basis of religion, however it is pitched). So what is done to block refugees, or people of specific countries and religions, from coming to the US is also as if done to my ancestors.
Which brings me to this op-ed in the NY Times by Fintan O’Toole, who points out the hypocrisy and indeed racism of today praising the legacy of Irish immigrants, while acting against immigrants and refugees in the way we see happening today. Do read this, whether or not you have Irish heritage.
Racism has historically been a “filter” on immigration to the US, and however reviled at the time, Irish and later groups from Eastern Europe, for instance, still passed that filter. One has only to look at the extreme measures long in force against Chinese immigration and the blatantly racist rhetoric especially in the late 19th century to see this. It was only in the mid 1960s that legislation finally removed the discriminatory filter.
(Since racism and arrivals in the US are at issue, it is worth reiterating that the ancestors of most African-Americans were not subject to this filter because they were not immigrants, but rather enslaved people brought against their will.)
And there is another level to consider. The current backward-looking movements in various parts of the world, including so-called “populists” in the US and Europe, are swimming against the tide of human evolution. We are one planet and one people, and the diversity within this global civilization should not be pretext for fomenting division and discord. Population movements – of migrants and expats (the faux distinction between which is another discussion) – are something to facilitate in orderly ways, and not try to wall-off legally or literally.
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