The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Immigrants - Western Tribune column July 1 2009

Once again I get to add photos to my Western Tribune column for effect. Whatcha think?

One cannot approach the Statue of Liberty and look up at her endless gaze across the sea without trying to put oneself in the place of the thousands of immigrants that made that same approach a century ago. “From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome” the famous poem by Emma Lazurus says.

Forty percent of Americans can trace their ancestry to Ellis Island which was the first stop those immigrants made when coming to our country. The rest of us, unless we are 100% Native American, also have immigrant roots.

There is no hard line rhetoric against the descendants of the European immigrants today. That tone is reserved for the immigrants who come not across the sea, but across the desert.

Yet those of Hispanic origin who enter our country today do so for the same reasons and suffer similar hardship as those who came seeking a better life so long ago. No one can blame them for that.

The fears surrounding the immigration debate are unfounded. One of those fears is about language, but a look at New York City’s history dispels that fear.

New York City began as a Dutch colony; New Amsterdam. Presumably, the language spoken was Dutch. After the English gained control, at some point, the principal language became English. However, when Chinese immigrants populated an area, they retained their language, which is still evident as one walks through Chinatown where all the signs are written in Chinese.

The mother of a friend of mine has lived in New York City for decades yet still speaks only Italian. In other words, people do just fine when exposed to an additional language in their culture.

Yet in Albertville and other cities people are up in arms because Hispanic business owners want to have storefront signs in Spanish.

These silly debates about language are an expression of the prejudice that some people have against people who are different. For those people, I offer a challenge.

Travel to New York, get on the ferry and visit Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Develop a little empathy by learning about the history of immigration and imagine that the many languages you hear from fellow tourists represent the many origins of immigrants that make up our ancestors.

Then imagine where you would be today if your immigrant ancestors had been turned away.

You might not be so quick to condemn today’s immigrants.


David said...

Joe. I like you. I like what you have to say. I do read your blog but do not read The Western Tribune. Normally I do not post things on this site, but felt I needed to express my opinion. As a former city employee here in Bessemer, and as a long time resident, I think you need to be aware that few people are reading the Wester Tribune and that it has quite the reputation here in town, and it is not a good one. I would like to see you explore other options. There are other local papers, or just keep writing your column here on this blog. But I would not continue to associate with The Tribune if I were you.

Just some friendly advice. Keep up the good work.

Joe said...

David thanks for your comment. I continue to write for the Tribune because I want a progressive voice in the local media, and whether people admit it or not, the Tribune does report the news. Some people, believe it or not, buy the paper just to read my column. lol.

I have explored another option, which may be in addition to my current writing. If it comes to pass, I will announce it on this blog within a week or two.

By the way, the other "local" paper has threatened me several times with legal action (former editor) and made an accusation about me to try to get me in trouble with the city (current writer) so I don't think they would be an option.

Joe said...

I wish you would email me. I don't want to respond on here to your other comment, but would like to further the conversation. My email link is on the side bar of the blog.