Putting The “I” In Immigrant: Racial transparency is pertinent in creating substantive inclusion initiatives
As many were two weeks ago, I was planted in front of the television in my living room, watching the first presidential debate of this year’s general election. While many comments made warranted reactions, one concept resonated with me as a view of education that contrasted my own.
In response to a question about reforms that encouraged racial sensitivity training in schools and workplaces, the sitting president justified pulling back on these practices out of concern that they were instilling a hatred of our nation in the citizenry.
Comparatively, it was a minute detail amid the slew of topics addressed that night, but it stuck with me as a view of the United States that I would never identify with because the color of my skin and my place of birth would never warrant me a seat among those who the U.S. was built for.
It evoked a feeling of disappointment rather than resentment. In a sense, it was a realization that those that govern my future have no real regard for my past.
Like so many within underserved communities, it has become admittedly difficult for me to feel anything but dissatisfaction with my country’s attempts to heal a chronic wound with insistence that it doesn’t exist in the first place. The current administration’s offensive strategy of erasure and denial breeds mistrust more than the truth.
The issue of inclusion in the U.S. is one that affects the lives of immigrants and marginalized communities. Substantive inclusion initiatives are hard to come by and, so far, inclusion has become more of an optical on-paper concept than a lived experience shared by Americans as an integral facet of society.
In the month of October, my people were given a heritage month. Hailed as an inclusive campaign intending to recognize the beauty of foreign culture and hyphenated American progress, the dedication of the months to underrepresented voices provides a way for the multicultural community to find a balance.
In every regard, the merits of this idea are endless, but this initiative falls short in its reach.
While I admire the sentiment and acknowledge the efforts made to be inclusive, the concept of the heritage month is not synonymous with reparation for past traumas. There is little to show that this movement has translated from the calendar into our daily lives.
During these periods of increased accessibility to platforms, we should be coupling cultural appreciation with social change.
To begin, we should be looking to the future.
While President Donald Trump argues against a curriculum that encourages transparency about our racial history, I argue that that is precisely what our nation needs. For much of my childhood, Christopher Columbus was the hailed hero and founder of the U.S. In a similar fashion, world history was laid out before me through the lens that the U.S. was the savior of developing nations and the staunch defender of democracy.
While this view is legitimate to some, it discredits the demographics that were stepped on in order to uplift U.S. exceptionalism.
Similarly, while I was taught a history written by white authors, I was taught very little of where I might stand in this history.
Instead of my educators, it was my family who helped me uncover my history with the U.S. and how my people have developed alongside this nation. While it didn’t make me hate the U.S. as Trump suggested, it opened my eyes to the injustices in this nation that will not vanish despite the effort to hide them away.
Beginning with how we educate future generations, these initiatives have the potential to become grassroots movements that have the power to mobilize whole communities.
Beyond the heritage month, we need to see genuine appreciation for cultural diversity in the places where we live, where we study and in the media we see online. Representation in these spheres is paramount to coloring our world accurately and doing so is in the best interest of all demographics.
Today, we see the effects of a 200-year standoff. Since the conception of this nation, there have been key cultures and populations excluded from the narrative and progress has been gradual in adding in more inclusive policy as the years go on.
Instead of snubbing our complex racial history, a true heritage month would acknowledge the mistakes of past generations and not allow history to repeat itself.
Beyond a heritage month, we should be striving toward a better nation that we might all see ourselves a part of. Instead of gifting us 30 days of inclusion, allow marginalized populations a seat at the table, a page in the history books and a place to call home that is accepting of our identity and history.
Noelle Natividad is a sophomore writing about the immigrant experience in America. Her column, “Putting The “I” In Immigrant,” runs every other Friday.