When We See People as “Other”
“Other” causes us to forget, justify, misplace, or misidentify our perceptions.
Last week, I was telling a co-worker about my family’s recent trip to New York. I was describing the area of Brooklyn where we were staying, a predominantly Russian neighborhood, and also visiting Chinatown. These two areas were filled with languages I couldn’t understand, street signs I couldn’t read, and foods I did not recognize. I saw it as exposure for my kids (ages 8 and 6) to experiences other than what we see in the suburbs of Chicago.
Referring to the preservation of culture within these pockets of the country, my co-worker responded “You know I’m pro-America, so that type of thing really bothers me.”
Through the phone, he couldn’t see my eyes narrow. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“These immigrants who come here and don’t adapt to America…” he started to say, but I cut him off.
“My husband is an immigrant,” I informed him forcefully.
“Well he got on the right path,” was the response.
I was so taken aback that I abruptly ended the conversation, rather than go down a path that I’m sure would only enrage me more. “Right” path? Because he went to college? Some of his siblings did not and they are doing just fine. Because he no longer speaks the language and the cultural traditions? Most of his family openly celebrate their heritage. I could think of many other bigoted interpretations of “right path” best left unsaid.
This conversation was on the heels of increasing reports in the news about what is happening to families at the border. The stream of information about the new policy separating parents from their children has cascaded into a waterfall with the force of Niagara. I avoided it for days because as a parent it hurt my heart too much, but now I cannot look away. Even after the executive order today appears to have reversed the worst of this inhumane policy, I still cannot breathe thinking of the separated children and how long it may take to reunite them with my parents.
If I were separated from my children, I would break in half.