There’s so much talk about Immigration, closed borders and “aliens” right now. People are throwing around a lot of opinions and that isn’t an issue in itself. The problem is what these ideas are based on. What information is giving birth to these ideas? What comes to mind when people hear words like Borders, Aliens (hate this word), Illegals (hate this word even more) and Immigrant?
Truth is, many are having these conversations with very little understanding of Immigrant reality, culture and notable contribution to world economy. That’s why I’ve rounded up these captivating talks by ImmiGreats from diverse cultural backgrounds.
1. "If something in that pot smells new or different to you, don't turn up your nose. Ask us to share."
Michael Rain, What it’s like to be the Child of Immigrants
I get the upturned nose quite regularly, so I can relate with this talk by Michael. It captures so many emotions experienced in a dual-identity life. It also screams a need for representation because hey, we are not going anywhere, and we are who we are – so yeah!
4. "I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called "American Psycho" and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers."
Chimamanda Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story
One of the happiest times in my life was a 2-3-week writer’s workshop with Chimamanda headlining. “Is she like that in real life? People ask me this question a lot and the answer is yes! What you see is what you get. She’s witty, gifted, smart and she really wants people to live meaningful lives. If there’s any group of people in danger of a single story, it’s us Immigrants. I think it’s really easy to embrace a side or embrace the side your immigrant parents embraced before truly understanding why.
5. "You know, when you live in a democracy, you live with this idea that your government will always protect you, as long as you abide by the laws. With the rise of national populism, despite being the best citizen I can, I now have to live with the idea that my government can hurt me for reasons I cannot control. It's very unsettling. But it forced me to rethink and rethink this question and try to think deeper. And the more I thought about it, the more I started questioning the question. Why would we have to choose between nationalism and globalism, between loving our country and caring for the world?”
Wanis Kabbaj, How Nationalism and Globalism can coexist
I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate the importance of a globalist mindset this year thanks to my 8yr old who constantly asks why all the countries don’t come together to stop Pandemics from that kill people and keep boys from their friends. I got it – Why don’t we come together to save the world like when The Avengers combined with Black Panther, Dr. Strange & the other superpowers to fight Thanos. Like Thanos, Coronavirus has cost the world so much. I agree with Kabbaj on this, do we really have to choose between loving our country and caring for the world?
“But then I would go to high schools, and everything has changed. Now nobody wants to be a writer anymore, now nobody wants to be a novelist anymore, and girls have become timid, they are cautious, guarded, reluctant to speak up in the public space, because we have taught them -- the family, the school, the society -- we have taught them to erase their individuality.”
Elif Shafak, The Revolutionary Power of Diverse Thought
Elif Shafak is another unique voice in literature. While Chimamanda’s writing evokes the Africa and the West, Elif blends East and West. In this talk, she points out how easily a national downfall can replicate itself in other places when diverse thought is constantly put on trial.
"Back in 2014, I met some of the first children in detention centers. And I wept. I sat in my car afterwards and I cried. I was seeing some of the worst suffering I'd ever known, and it went against everything I believed in my country, the rule of law and everything my parents taught me."
Luis H. Zayas, The Psychological Impact of Child Separation at the US-Mexico Border
Luis Zayas has carried out extensive research on the effects of detention and deportation on immigrant children and their families. I think it’s important for immigrants and the rest of the world to stay abreast of immigrant-related challenges and conversation. I think it’s also essential to step out of the “perfect immigrant” box that many would like us to fit in – “blend in or disappear”. For many of us, disappearing isn’t an option, it is a death of sorts – the death of our stories, our history and therefore our future. If the rest of the world are to recognize the existence of other options, it will most likely be because of us.
So there! I’m sure these 5 Ted Talks will get you thinking about Immigration, the immigrant community and how we respond to others who don’t look or believe in the same things we do.
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