Friday, March 17, 2017

Immigrants Make America Great

As a new wave of immigrants, mostly from India, China and Latin America are changing America's demographic makeover in the 21st century, we need a President that speaks to the humanity and community of the lives of millions that call our nation home. I say this realizing, there would be no Trump presidency without a "Make America Great Again" campaign centered on immigration and the systematic exclusion of Muslims and immigrants as the country's ultimate bogeyman. Factually: according to Pew Research, approximately 11 million of the 43 million immigrants living in the USA are here illegally. 

My mother and father were immigrants. If they had a heinous plan in mind, they have not fulfilled it yet. In my 18 years in the USA, I have lived in cities surrounded by all kinds of people, where diversity is as tangible as the people walking the streets. This is a very different America than the Trump supporters white America. For white Americans who live in homogeneous communities, one of the chief ways they are exposed to immigrants – the same immigrants who are making America less white – is through pop culture. 

Dark skin immigrants are continually casted in American film and TV shows as drug dealers, maids, nerds, criminal musicians, terrorists and heavily accented, exotic sexpots. When immigrant storylines are featured on television, many of the stereotypes have no factual basis, such as immigrants as criminals. According to research by the Cato Institute, a libertarian group, "Immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates."

There are bright spots, however, and they shine even brighter in our gloomy political environment. While streaming a recent episode of Fresh Off the Boat, now in its third season on ABC, I had to pause the show, just to make sure I really saw what I saw: Taiwanese immigrant Jessica Huang, brilliantly played by Constance Wu, goes through a roller coaster of emotions – frustration and confusion, embarrassment and desperation – as she sits through an interview to become a naturalized US citizen.

As I finished the episode, I realized that stories like Huang's are exactly why we need to watch in the Trump era. At a time when many Americans have lost trust in news media – the accurate, humanistic portrayal of immigrants in popular culture will be crucial in countering harmful rhetoric and rampant misinformation. Fittingly, the Fresh Off the Boat episode was titled "How to Be an American."

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