The O-town Scene

December 29, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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the DIVERSITY SCENE ID Tags |by Jeffrey Pegram A letter to children who look like illegal immigrants Beloved, I write to you because I am concerned about you and because I love my country. I am concerned about the connota- tions you make with the image you see in the mirror and how you relate emotionally to that image as well as to others whose appearance differs from your own. Like you I am 'immigrant-looking' too. Consequently, I grew up in America burdened by feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt for stepping outside of my intended "place" by having the audacity to want all of the rights and privileges that other people received at birth: liberty; the right to marry anyone and live anywhere; the right to vote and to receive an education alongside the same children my forebears nursed and nannied for cen- turies. Shame because of the texture of my hair, the shape of my Our contributors talk about different aspects of diversity, from LGBTQ issues to questions of ethnicity and more. To submit a column or event, email The implication is that "Americans" look Anglo, despite the fact most of you are citi- zens having been born here. Thus it is un- derstandable your very appearance arouses suspicion. The idiocy of this law reveals the abysmal ignorance and fear of some of your legal-looking compatriots. features, and the complexion of my skin – which meant I was subconsciously ashamed of those who looked like me – in a society that communicated that my body was unlovable and that I was inherently separate from the norm and unaccept- able. It was intended I believe this. I want to spare you this spiritual death before it is too late ... as- suming that it is not already. Some southern states, where you likely live, recently enacted laws that require law enforcement officers to determine the citizen- ship status of any persons they suspect are illegal immigrants and that permit officers to detain those persons. Moreover, race, color, and national origin may be considered "to the ex- tent permitted by the US Constitution," which is not at all clear. I want you to know that these laws are not about illegal residency. America has always had and always tolerated undocumented residents. Rather, these laws are fear- induced attempts on the part of those who view themselves as "legal-looking" to reduce their susceptibility to scarcity and discomfort during a period of escalating economic woe. Scarcity always betrays our true nature. Your jeopardy makes them feel safe and less at risk. Since America's birth, the default for "American" has always been white, which ironically excludes our indigenous popula- tion. Therefore the implication is that "Americans" (who are necessarily innocent) look Anglo, despite the fact most of you are citizens having been born here. Thus it is understandable your very appearance arouses suspicion. The idiocy of this law reveals the abysmal ignorance and fear of some of your legal- looking compatriots. They fear the very fate they seek to subject you to. Though it will easy for you to one day discern the similar physical characteristics of those you believe to be socially and politically responsible for your demoralization and disen- franchisement, and consequently target them for retribution, I beg you not to. For the sake of the health of the country I love – your country, resist this very natural urge. For if you do not you will destroy yourself by becoming the wickedness that you loathe and thus perpetuate the crime. Unfortunately, their freedom depends on your freedom from this sinister force. Love, your brother. Jeffrey Pegram is an assistant professor of education at Hartwick College, and specializes in sociological foundations of education, liberalism and multiculturalism. Dec. 29, 2011 O-Town Scene 17

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