Aliens, illegals, immigrants, call them what you will. Some terms are considered offensive by legal residents; some terms used by others are not fit to print. In a country in which there are such disparate points of view, our southern border is being threatened moment by moment, and my role today is not to take a position.
As I said, however, to one of my Irish-American friends recently who was lamenting the influx of immigrants, “Remember, Irish were not welcomed at one time in this country, and signs were posted, ‘Help Wanted No Irish Need Apply.’”
My column is addressed today to those readers who are realists (The minority population continues to increase while the white population is stagnant) or who are pragmatists (This applies to those who know that with an aging population there is a need for young people to do the heavy lifting and professionals who can fill in the slots that are being vacated by early retirees. And both groups pay taxes to reduce the mounting national deficit) or the moralists/idealists (This group maintains that we have a moral responsibility to accept those who face all manner of violence in their homelands).
I am also aware of the host of arguments against mass immigration, including the one about the boat that capsizes because it is overloaded. And I would caution all to consider when we whites immigrated from Europe, we built fences and pushed the Native Americans out of our way to lands that we considered less desirable. Yes, we all have a history.
I’m fortunate in that my work life has taken me to Texas and California, both locations that reflect the diversity that is spreading throughout the country. I, therefore, without writing of the race/ethnicity of friends and family members, would like to offer some suggestions for readers who want to be more inclusive and who want to feel more comfortable with the changing demographics. If you opt to engage in any of my suggestions, please do so with respect and openness – even when your discomfort level is high.
Attend concerts, festivals, religious ceremonies of groups unlike you. Read, watch documentaries. Travel. Do volunteer work. Enroll in college classes in a host of areas that seem uncomfortable to you. Study the language and culture of another country. Strike up a conversation at work or in your neighborhood with those unlike you.
My friends on Facebook report their strategies and opinions:
Jody Wallace says that she and her husband reach out to talk with those who are unlike them, and Susan Turley engages in conversations about these diversity matters, “intentionally keeping it civil respectful, and honest.”
Donna Reynolds Spangler and Tom Gallagher “call out” people for using racist and sexist language, and Gallagher has unfriended some. Mike Willis suggests to friends that they think before they speak and invite persons unlike themselves to do something fun with them.
Jane Simonton Hendrickson volunteers in an addiction recovery community center, and Susanmelindamathilda Marie works as a chemical dependency counselor in a treatment center where she “empowers the women clients to stand up for themselves, to be independent human beings, and to practice critical thinking skills.”
Terry Wilson teaches ESL to immigrants, and Cathyryn Essinger reports, “I teach and read as many diverse writers as possible.”
Nancy Heffner Hawks warns, “Don’t discuss politics, religion or money.”
While Darla Renee Godin maintains that she tries to find the beauty in everyone and Lydia Dykes asserts, “There is good in everyone,” Diana Berlin advises, “Be kind and nonjudgmental.” Jessica Ann makes “an appeal to empathy and compassion,” and Robin Howard “treats everyone with kindness and respect.” Shirley Scully says, “I have no answer except prayer.” Then, there is Katherine Niemi Adams who indicates, “Sometimes it’s really best to just let thinks blow over” when there is conflict. Susan Cummings adds, “I practice discretion. Not everyone needs to know my opinion.”
Valerie Wood Beakes takes action: “On social media, I use the report button quite often,” and Peter Barberio writes, “I work and play music and patiently wait and sign many petitions daily and vote.”
Vivian Hazell challenges herself to be more aware of her own biases and how they affect others. Dennis McCurdy knows, “I am a product of the time I grew up in and attempt to grow with the times instead of becoming a ‘get off my lawn’ old man.”
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” is Cinda Lewis Anderton’s mantra, courtesy of Gandhi.
In conclusion, my Facebook friends represent a wide geographic span in the U.S. Where do you stand? William Partin reminds us, “It’s a tough world, ain’t it?” even as Anne Hogue Midkiff warns us, “We must all resist evil.”
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.