I’m reading Imagine a Forest, a how-to art book by artist Dinara Mirtalipova. Dinara studied computer science and cybernetics in Uzbekistan. But when she came to the USA, she worked cleaning toilets and later doing mundane office work. It was years before she was able to develop and use her artistic skills to work on projects she was passionate about.
She says this in the acknowledgments:
I’m thankful for being born into a great Uzbek-Russian culture, where I absorbed the traditions and folklore. And I’m also thankful to the United States of America, which welcomes immigrants and treats them with respect, providing equal opportunities for growth and development.
Is this true for all immigrants?
We keep talking about immigrants when we talk about the travel ban and the wall but that’s not really what it’s about, is it? I think it’s about brown-skinned people who don’t speak English and who aren’t Christian. (Blacks who were brought from Africa weren’t immigrants and did not come voluntarily, and that’s a story we’ll talk about separately. I am picking out some books for a future segment of the club.)
Over the generations, different people have immigrated to America (and Canada, Australia, etc.) and in the USA, each new group has been demonized, called criminals, and treated like crap. “No Irish Need Apply,” was once a common saying in help-wanted ads. Eastern European immigrants were considered communist threats when my great-grandparents came at the beginning of the 20th century. Italians and Jews weren’t considered to be white when they first started immigrating to the US in large numbers.
What does this mean for us today? What does it mean for immigrants today? What can we do, as individuals, to make immigrants and refugees and minorities in our towns and cities feel welcome and safe? Because it’s up to us, as individuals, to make that happen.