I look through my computer screen at a woman doing her best to raise her children. As we prepare for a Zoom tutoring session, I listen to her as she tells me her new working schedule. Nights, in a nursing home, during Covid. She comes home in the early morning hours after spending the night caring for the elders of others. She sleeps for a few hours and then takes over being the mother of several children who are home all day due to Covid. One is falling behind in his schoolwork. It’s common these days.
She looks tired but she smiles. The stress is obvious. I wonder if she experiences the cruel stares and comments so many like her do. I wonder how anyone could be cruel to her or afraid of her. She is a newly settled immigrant. She is from a western country in Africa. I don’t know her own personal story but knowing that she is a refugee from a country that is engulfed in civil war, I can imagine the horrors she has witnessed, experienced, and fled from. How is it possible to be so unkind to those who have suffered so much?
After the tutoring session with her oldest son is finished, I go online. I read an article by a local mainstream news source that my newly elected legislator refers to as fake news of the liberal left. The article is about an a man from Mexico, the country. He was recently arrested for being here, in the United States. The comments are full of hate, fear, and incredibly cruelty. Like our president, they do not see him as a person. He’s just another “illegal”, void of human qualities. Do we wonder why he is here? What did he run away from? Who does he send money back home to? Are they safe? Does he miss them? Do they miss him? Those who post such comments miss the reality that he is someone’s dad, son, brother, cousin. As I read the comments I think of this mother I am so honored to work with and the thousands like her. Doing work that many who post such comments would never do. Harvesting the food we eat. Slaughtering and preparing the meat we eat. Cleaning the homes we live in. Caring for the elderly we cannot or choose not to care for. Every family has a story. Including those seeking a safer, better life here. Why is that so hard to understand? It must be fear. Fear is so often the root of misunderstandings and prejudices and illogical thinking. Maybe it’s fear of not understanding those who look and sound different from what we are use to. Maybe it’s fear of losing power and control. I have heard some say that “they” will take our jobs. I don’t think those sharing their hate so publicly want to work in the fields, slaughterhouses, nursing homes, and hotels that so many of those seeking our safety work in.
This New Year may we all find the ability and desire to stop for a second and question our prejudices, for that is what these are. Listen to the stories being told, look at the people telling them, and see them, hear them, as the persons they are. May this be a new New Year. One filled with acceptance, empathy, and compassion.