The New Melting Pot
I have grown up my entire life with a strong sense of my immigrant heritage. My father’s parents were among the first generation of my family that was born in America. And though she has lived in the states for over twenty years, my mother is still a Danish citizen. I always knew that my father’s family had moved away from their homes in northern Norway looking for a better life. I believe that it is because of this that I have always empathized with those who leave their homelands for economical, social, or political reasons.
This is why the past week’s readings about asylum seekers in Norway were particularly interesting to me. We discussed during our Peace Seminar just how difficult and hazardous the route that asylum seekers take is. Also we discussed how comparatively small the asylum population is to the number of immigrants who moved in search of labor opportunities. Yet these two groups have been clumped together and labeled as people who only “take” from society. I have encountered this view in the United States and find it incredibly frustrating. The great irony where I come from in rural Minnesota is that while we look at newer Hispanic and African communities with suspicion and mistrust, we cling to our identities as the descendants of Scandinavian immigrants.
One of my favorite segments from last year’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum was the presentation by the African Development Center of Minnesota. The ADC empowers immigrants by providing financial education and support for fledgling businesses through micro-loans and business planning. It was encouraging to know that there are people out there working to give recent arrivals the tools to overcome the language and cultural barriers that often prevent immigrant communities from reaching their potential.
Immigrants have so much to contribute to our culture, both culturally and economically. The discussion cannot be allowed to become about “us” versus “them”. Our nation was built by immigrants and I believe that they strengthen it still today. We can all learn from each other, and disregarding the contributions of our neighbors simply because of their skin color or language is not only harmful to our society, it is inherently wrong.
African Development Center of Minnesota http://www.adcminnesota.org/
Hervik, Peter. The Annoying Difference: The Emergence of Danish Neonationalism, Neoracism, and Populism in the Post-1989 World. Berghahn Books, 2011. Print.