The Fear of the “Other”

Thosepeople are different than us….”, my usually reasonable co-worker said this morning.  She was trying to explain to me why immigration and immigrants and all those “other” people make her mad coming into “our” country.  (Not sure which country her ancestors immigrated from-mine were German, Norwegian and Swedish).  It was hard not to get mad.  But we were at work, so there wasn’t enough time for a full-blown rebuttal of “why so many of my friends and the people I respect are refugees or immigrants” and why I believe our country is enriched by what they bring or that those of us who are not Native American need to walk a bit softly and with humility on this one.  She knows how much we love our “adopted” Burmese granddaughters so, she just wanted to tell me that the Somali refugees next to her house were blocking the driveway with their car and she thought they should be deported. Oh, and, that we let too many of those “other” people into this country!

I’m sorry her neighbors had bad manners, or maybe didn’t have her understanding of property rights.  But stereotyping everyone from every region (except of course, white North Americans who forgot that they too immigrated) is a really bad idea!

Refugees go through a stringent screening process to get here.  Article 1 of the Geneva Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol provides the definition of a refugee:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it..”[3]

Taking a deep breath, saying a pray for those, like my friend, who do not understand the value of diversity, the necessity of compassion, or the richness and beauty to be gained by learning from what each person created in the image of God has to offer.

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One thought on “The Fear of the “Other”

  1. Today Chris took our Somali friends to the beach in Madison Valley and I stopped by to say hi… and as I saw their smiles and all the ways that they are growing, learning, and changing, I was hopeful again about the opportunities that this great country can provide. Now if only the rest of us could remember that we were given that same opportunity by another somewhere down the line, that would be great!

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