SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!! Launching this spring: Kindness at Noon for Immigrants + Refugees. In light of the ongoing controversy over rights of the global citizen who find themselves migrating to another country; the enacted “Muslim Ban” in the US; Brexit in the UK; and the perilous dimensions of what it means to be a refugee in the 21st century, Kindness at Noon aims to raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis all of us are impacted by in one form or another.
Keep checking this blog for upcoming developments as we partner with local organizations on Resolutions in Support of Kindness at Noon, Every Day, Everywhere for Immigrants and Refugees.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Global Kindness Revolution: how together we can heal violence, racism, and meanness:
Chapter Three: Kindness to Immigrants & Refugees
Unless you’re Native American, most of us claiming this land, this America, as “ours,” are descendants of immigrants. My grandparents came here from Ireland, Italy, Austria and Russia and were not welcomed. Signs everywhere read “No Irish Need Apply” or “No Italians Need Apply.” Jews were treated even worse. My grandmother, Frances Bondy, came here from Odessa with her mother who reportedly spoke only Yiddish and was a hunchback. Family lore says that they lived in Florida where anti-Semitism flourished and that the KKK burned a cross on their lawn. They moved north to Bayonne, NJ, where they changed their name and the Jewish part of our history was erased, coming to light only after her death.
Black people were/are still living in the shadow of slavery, though lynching no longer occurs. The systemic discrimination that persists today is evident in areas such as housing and employment opportunities.
While anti-Semitism still exists, especially with members of the extreme right, today it’s the “other,” the people with darker skin, fleeing violence and possible death back home. We deem them “aliens” and in the process dehumanize them, even as sixty of them died in a van that was welded shut. By the time they were discovered by the side of a highway, they had decomposed into a gelatinous mess, causing us to lose our humanity.
The worst chapter in America’s relationship with immigrants is the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, our most egregious example of immigrant hatred born of fear and ignorance, spawning the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing Party” in the mid-1800s. Just like today’s white supremacists who continue to wave the banner of hate. Now we’re building new prisons—a corrupt for-profit agenda—to house “aliens” and their children.
Our collective Mean Minds seem to be controlling so much of our national politics and policies. We consent to the utter demonizing of immigrants and refugees by Americans and their elected officials, who barrage our minds with the fear of the “other,” like we did back in those shameful times, rather than the compassion upon which this country was founded. We no longer welcome the “huddled masses yearning to breath free” to our shores. Our beloved Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of our hypocrisy. Other countries in the west have all demonstrated anti-immigrant sentiments.
Concurrent with the writing of this book was the massive controversy of “Brexit,” the UK’s vote to exit the European Union, largely based on fears of immigrants taking over the country due to the influx of newcomers over the past decade. Days after the vote a rash of xenophobic incidents were reported. Those from Muslim and Eastern European communities described being under attack as people were running up to them, screaming in their faces, “go home.” Racist graffiti began turning up in their neighborhoods. As the UK grappled with the ramifications of the controversial vote, hate of the “other” continued to spread.
In 2015, the Syrian refugee crisis was at its peak as millions fled to European shores, seeking asylum. As the crisis unfolded, several governments of the EU responded by enhancing border control, deportations, and actively discouraged refugees from making the journey. Human Rights groups voiced the urgency to fix the EU’s broken asylum system and emphasized the magnitude of the humanitarian need. An untold number of children lost their lives from both the Syrian civil war and resulting treacherous migrations to other countries. Stories of tragedy kept multiplying as countries such as Greece and Italy were tasked with rescue missions in the Mediterranean where thousands of migrants had drowned.
In 2014, tens of thousands of children traveling alone, seeking freedom from violence, sexual slavery, rape and death in their home countries were treated like animals. I’ll never be able to wipe from my memory the Arizona residents, thinking a busload of children going to a YMCA camp was part of the influx of child refugees streaming over our border with Mexico. The angry people screamed and cursed at the children, shouting violent threats, stopping just short of damaging the bus. I was ashamed of and afraid of my fellow Americans.
Imagine the trauma to those children, to say nothing of the certain PTSD in refugee children; imagine their bafflement at the adults acting violent and psychotic. As a result of pressure from the US to stop the children, Mexico is now acting with a severity never seen before. All children caught crossing their border are immediately turned back, without any evaluation of their asylum status or whether they would qualify for temporary residence. Desperate children are being denied safety and dignity, many returning to certain death or sexual slavery. This heartless treatment violates both Mexican asylum laws and now migrants must use drug cartels to reach the US, adding to the cartel’s enormous profits.
UNICEF reports nearly 28 million children globally are displaced by conflict. The United Nations has had to cut back on food and supplies for refugees from war torn Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, among others, due to “inadequate funding.” In this country, efforts by the State Department to increase the number of accepted refugees have been resisted by people like Republican representative from Texas, Michael McCaul, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee. He claims allowing more refugees to come here would create a “federally funded jihadi pipeline” for Islamist militants. In his ignorance and xenophobia, he doesn’t realize that the refugee camps are the true breeding grounds for violence against America.
Someone reported that a Native American chief had tongue in cheek proposed that every non-Native now residing in the US pay a fine, as immigrants and descendants of immigrants, of $500 each to Native Americans for allowing us to remain in their country! An interesting idea…