Don’t forget, they’re human

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When it comes to the new immigration law, my writing mind wants to go into shutdown mode. It’s simply too difficult a subject to discuss on paper because it is so highly charged with emotion on both sides of the issue.

Those supporting it argue that breaking the law is wrong, and illegal immigrants are breaking the law. The other side says it is more complicated than a broken law and there is a larger issue involving the motives behind the law.

I’ve read stories and comments both pro and con, and I know that whatever I say is going to rub someone the wrong way. That is why my writing mind is screaming, “don’t do it.”

The problem is I have this other voice, the one coming from my heart. It whispers instead of screams and speaks with convincing emotion. Today, that voice is winning the battle in my head and pushing my fingers over this keyboard.

What bothers me most about this immigration discussion is the way we so casually say the words “illegal immigrants” like we are talking about things and not people. Whether being here is right or wrong, legal or illegal, immigrants are as human as I am human. They breathe like I do. They get hungry, tired, are happy, sad, scared, confused, desire love, and seek safety for themselves and those they love just like me.

Sometimes I think we create labels because it makes it easier to forget each other’s humanity, makes it harder to feel a connection when we hear labels instead of names.

I lived through the time of desegregation in this country and I know how assigning blame to a group of people works. I remember (again my writing mind is screaming stop) white people I knew who, on a personal level, had close relationships with black people, even one-on-one friendships. They knew each other by name, knew their families and would have probably done anything necessary to help each other if the need arose.

Those same people supported segregation and from a historical view were part of the energy of racism. It seemed a huge contradiction to the teenaged me that people who one minute carried on a friendly conversation with a black person could in the next minute be fussing about how they were causing problems in the world.

That taught me how quickly we grow blind to the unique individual when we place him or her in a group and decide that group is some how different from, less than, or a problem to us.

Maybe there is indeed a huge problem in this state with those who are here illegally and I do not fully grasp it. I am sure someone is going to step up and explain what I’m missing in this situation.

Still, there is that pesky something inside that compels me to speak and to ask if perhaps we need to find a better way of looking at things, a way of seeing ourselves as members of this great human family instead of separate groups vying for resources.

Maybe when we do, the voice in my writing head won’t find itself at odds with my heart’s voice.