Lately I’ve been asked to talk about refugees. Although I am primarily a researcher and cultural trainer, it’s not astonishing, given that I started out working with refugees as a grad student more than twenty years ago. And you maybe have noticed that there are a few issues being discussed in the news. (It’s hardly subtle.) Here our local North Texas metropolis has also noticeably diversified – as visible at ethnic festivals, student competitions and sports events, business venues, and so on. The shift has been happening for some time, but many are just starting to take note.
As I’ve talked to different groups, the responses seem to fall into two categories: anticipation and fear. Fear is indeed a type of anticipation, but a decidedly negative, isolationist personal policy. Anticipation (the good kind) wonders “what if,” and looks for relationship. There is an invitation inherent in that answer. It’s not necessarily careless, but even the most cautious responders often indicate a willingness to find out.
Some recent comments from individuals include:
“I’m so glad to know that there are groups around that help these people. Maybe I can get involved.”
“It is just terrifying to think that there are going to be less and less white people in this country in a few decades.”
“I’m excited to see the changes going on in our country. Not sure where it will go yet, but we have a chance at this thing!”
“These people pose us a serious threat. Here’s some information you might want to use in your talk.” (This was from a lady attempting to hand me a 1980s research volume on refugee diseases.)
The US is not likely as a nation to receive the type of flood of refugees that Europe has been inundated with. Our refugee resettlement system has a prescribed process that is quite lengthy, and for most groups this is normally several years long.
Most reading this are not individuals with a great deal of clout, at least politically. Influence your decision makers as your conscience dictates. Speak your mind. Exercise your first amendment rights. But regardless of your stance on the issue of refugee reception, there is a question that remains: What will you do with the people that are here? There is a future ahead for our children and grandchildren. Will you isolate or relate?