RAVE: The Middle of Everywhere

“The purpose of freedom is to free someone else.”
Toni Morrison

If every American read The Middle of Everywhere, which captures some stories of refugees in America, our country would be a more understanding, tolerant, and united place. Read it. And if you absolutely can't, at least read the rest of this post.

I learned many lessons from this book - some of which are captured in the list of myths and explanations shared by the author, Mary Pipher. Please take the time to read them. Let's stop these myths from spreading as truth.
Myth 1: Regugees are ignorant and have no formal education.

This is not true. Many were doctors, professors, engineers, and journalists in their native lands.

Myth 2: The United States takes in most of the world's refugees.

We actually take in less than 1 percent of the world's refugees. Many countries take a much larger share than we do. And many host countries are much poorer than the United States.

Myth 3: Newcomers are taking American jobs.

In fact, they are filling jobs that Americans won't take and thus enabling businesses to prosper in a time when minimum-wage workers are hard to find. They are a tremendous boon to our economy, especially our rural economy. Furthermore, relations between newcomers and old-timers are not a zero-sum game. Refugees buy groceries and other products in our stores and introduce innovations that ultimately help all of us.

Myth 4: Newcomers do not pay taxes.

In fact, refugees pay taxes, including property taxes. Even though they pay taxes, newcomers cannot vote or receive many government benefits. They are taxed without representation.

Myth 5: Newcomers don't want to learn English.

It seems ironic that we expect people to learn our language rapidly when so few of us speak any language but English. However, people who haven't struggled to learn another language have less empathy for how difficult it is to succeed with a new language. The fact is, most refugees, many of whom speak four or five languages already, are desperately trying to learn English.

Myth 6: Why don't they go back where they belong?

Refugees are here because they had no choices but to be here. They couldn't say where they were. I want to respond to this question by asking, "Would you stay where your children saw people being killed if they looked out the windows? Or where you were made to participate in your parents' torture and execution? Or, where you might be beaten until you could never work again for the crime of speaking to an American? Would you stay where your daughter could be raped and shot by soldiers?"

I wonder how many Americans think these myths are true?

1 comment:

  1. Em,
    Thanks for these. I have seen number one in action. Many of my students have parents who came to the US for better or had to get away from their country and they were well-respected and valued in their homes...and come to work minimum wage jobs for the dreams of their children.