I write, speak and facilitate on topics including bias. I often focus on gender bias – the unconscious kind that women confront in the workplace. Understanding this kind of bias makes me sensitive to other kinds of bias – bias based on race, skin color, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. I see bias at the root of the current immigration crisis and of the “travel ban” that the Supreme Court just blessed.
It seems to me that the approach to immigrants that is in the news reflects fear (which sometimes shows up as hate) and not love (which shows up as compassion). The Prayer of St. Francis comes to mind. We cannot ignore these very real issues; but we could deal with them with greater respect for all human beings. We could show more love and less fear.
I think fear is driving policies, resulting in de-humanizing rhetoric and actions. For example:
- Using words like “infestation” to describe immigration,
- Criminalizing desperate people seeking escape from life-threatening conditions (including in Central America),
- Using children and the pain of separating parent and child as tools to deter immigration or to force immigrants to drop claims for asylum or other legal rights,
- Providing far too few resources to deal humanely with immigrants on our southern border,
- Applying descriptors (stereotypes) to a whole group that fairly describe only the relatively few extremists in the group.
We are told that there are only two emotions, fear and love. I’d like to see us think of these choices, not just in the spiritual or therapeutic context, but in today’s immigration challenges. What would it be like if we started with the recognition that immigrants, like us, are people? What would it be like if we substituted respect and compassion for fear and hatred? What if we saw a person as an individual not just as part of a (poorly understood) group? Of course, there must be limits and processes at our borders. But what if, when we must take actions that are painful (e.g., exclusion or deportation), we did so in ways that recognize our shared humanity?
(If you are troubled by these things, there are ways to help. You can donate to Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN). You can help pay travel expenses of volunteers to work at detention centers through a GoFundMe campaign or donate to the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law or RAICES, which are on the frontlines with children and families who have been separated.)
We are not just treating immigrants badly. We are treating other Americans in ways that reflect hatred rather than love. Leaders try to gain support for their views by riling people up against those with different views. They over-simplify and describe the views of the “other” group dishonestly (“they want open borders” or “they don’t care about families”), creating division rather than dialogue. This is having broad and deep impact, including the lack of civility that has gained media attention. Since when is it acceptable to harass someone simply because of their political affiliation?
I am doing what I can for the immigrant situation. As important, I am committing myself to speaking with greater respect to those with political views that are different from mine. I commit to speaking up when I see hatred creeping into our national actions and political discourse. What can you commit to that could help sow more love?