Dear scared white student: Let me introduce myself. My name is Mary Frances McGowan, and I, like the students who you so callously called murderers, thieves and encouraged to “go back over the wall,” hail from an immigrant background.
I know that it is hard to comprehend, scared white student. My complexion, with the exception of a dusting of freckles, is as milky and pale as yours. Unlike you, however, I feel a deep empathy with individuals who have immigrated or are trying to immigrate from Central America and Mexico. My family, like theirs, fled the persecution of their home country.
My folks were persecuted Catholics in a Protestant-controlled Northern Ireland, where they were barred from decent housing, jobs and the ability to take control of one’s life. Northern Ireland was and still is, in some ways, marked by persistent violence and the omnipresence of potential death and political turmoil. Although my family will always have an unbridled love for the North, at the time, it was no place to live. My family, like the people you are so willing to hate, simply longed a better life for the children that would someday carry their name.
When my family got here, scared white student, they faced the biting intolerance that you are now doling out generously to the immigrants of the here and now. The Irish were considered to be the scum of the earth heathens, the lowest of the low.
As Irish immigrants separated themselves by county, Irish Republic folks turned their heads away from the Northerners, making my family strangers even amongst their own countrymen.
Being the stranger isn’t easy, scared white student, but it makes you stronger. If you’re smart, like my family, the sting of intolerance slowly blossoms into a compassion for all people living on the margins that is indiscriminate.
My grandma, who immigrated to the United States very recently, has always stressed the importance of the dignity of all people. For so long, my folks weren’t considered to be valuable human beings. We don’t want anyone else to feel that way. We’ll never, ever, forget where we came from.
Unless you’re a Native American (which I’m very confidently going to say you’re not), scared white student, I know for a fact that somewhere in the story of your family, you can conjure up a similar tale, considering that quite literally every immigrant group has faced discrimination.
Some of the very first immigrants to our fine Nation after the founding fathers and English settlers were Germans. Ben Franklin, despite his many positive traits, went out of his way to attempt to keep German immigrants out of this country, thankfully to no avail. Immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe were lumped in the same lowlife category as the Irish, and were presumed to be gypsies, thieves, undereducated and void of morals. There were quotas put on Asian immigrants, and later Asian Americans were put into internment camps. And now, immigrants face the same arduous plight that so many of our ancestors did, with people like you calling them criminals, rapists and drug lords.
Why can’t you see that your family, most likely, went through the same thing? Why is that you so conveniently forgot your past? Our nation would be nothing without the intellect, entrepreneurship, drive and passion of your forefathers and foremothers paving your way. Our friends from Central America and Mexico have already and will continue to provide the United States with the richness and talents of the immigrants of ages past. I, for one, stand in solidarity with all immigrants. Somos unidos.