English in Action: The English-Speaking Union

Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center

Make America White Again?

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Editorial from The ARNIC Observer, Fall 2016
Yohanna Acevedo, Mariam Cessouma, Victoria Danilovich, Ahed Festuk, Liudmyla Khomchenko, Nataliia Omelchenko, Liwen Rong, Rose Saint-Cyr, Yana Samoylova, Max Quinde Wiesner, Olga Zakhartseva, Editorial Board
Bob Speziale, Consulting Editor

"The world of ours must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect."
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

A Climate of Fear

What has happened? The fear is that a nativist vision will inhabit the White House and regard immigrants as competitors for American workers and treat them as potential terrorists. The fear is that work permits and protection from deportation will be canceled for approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants. The fear is that a campaign to deport as many as 2 million others will be undertaken and that raids in communities and workplaces will take place and that detention centers along the borders will be expanded.

In addition, the fear is that the arrival of Syrian refugees to the U.S. will be halted and other refugees will be subject to a litmus test of "ideological certification" by which they would be required to demonstrate they share American values.

These actions create fear and anxiety not only among those people whose lives will be upended, but also among the majority of Americans who believe in the constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To make matters worse, the national debate concerning immigrants and immigration has been debased to the point where some good people no longer hesitate to express their most vile and repugnant sentiments.

A Swamp of Hate

My, how times have changed. Sixty years ago people who spouted hate and venom wore white robes and white cone hats and covered their faces with white masks and burned crosses and hanged people under the cover of darkness. Today, white nationalists and neo-Nazis don't hide their faces; instead, they dress in business suits, salute fascism and rant and rage in public halls, some not more than a few steps from the White House, in stark daylight.

Is America becoming more and more like other countries that have experienced upheavals in their politics and culture and curtailed freedoms? Germany in the late '30s persecuted Jews and other so-called undesirables at the same time the Soviet Union was persecuting academics, landowners, scientists and artists. Recently, England voted to distance itself from the European Union in order to decide its own destiny with regard to immigration. In the Middle East, religion divides populations and in Syria, a civil war among many factions has resulted in widespread death and destruction.

Will the dreadful fear and hate Eisenhower speaks of once again result in separate facilities for citizens and non-citizen immigrants? Separate hospitals, schools, theaters, Post Offices and water fountains not only for us and for them but also for whites, African Americans, Muslims, Roman Catholics and Episcopalians? Why stop there? How about separate public swimming pools, bowling alleys and customer service counters at department stores?

A Glimmer of Hope

As Maxine Hong Kingston said, "In time of destruction, create something." Now is not the time to roll over and play dead. We need our leaders to speak up, and honorable, rational Americans who understand the course of history and have learned from it, to voice strong opposition to absurd proposals that only further divide us.

"America's greatness comes from recognizing the innate dignity and worth of all our people," said Michelle Obama in an epic speech in October in New Hampshire. "We can show our children that here in America, we reject hatred and fear in difficult times…we rise up to defend our blessings of liberty. We rise up to embody the values of equality and opportunity and sacrifice that have always made this country the greatest nation on Earth."

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