We are in the midst of a crisis unlike any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. We are scared and scrambling to protect ourselves and the ones that we love. This is normal and understandable.
However, if we’re not mindful, the spread of the coronavirus and the accompanying fear could create a shift in American culture that—like after 9/11—could transform our national security and immigration policy and fuel divisive narratives about certain groups of people for years to come.
Immigrants and Asians in America are already being scapegoated and victimized. President Trump regularly demonizes groups as invasive carriers of disease by using outdated monikers like the “Chinese Virus” to assign blame, sew division, and deflect responsibility for his handling of the crisis.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration is also using the pandemic as an opportunity to close our doors to people from around the world. And with the economy likely heading toward recession, anti-immigrant groups—with a direct line to the White House—are already banging the drum to keep foreign workers and students out of our country. These calls will only increase as unemployment rises.
We must respond forcefully in this moment. If we don’t, we will find ourselves in the most isolationist and restrictive environment of our lifetimes.
The consequence could very well become the 21st century version of the Immigration Act of 1924. This measure essentially shut immigration to the United States until the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act opened the doors anew.
Our charge is to counter discriminatory and divisive narratives with positive stories. We must shift from an “us versus them” to an “all of us versus the coronavirus” narrative.
Telling stories that show everyone, including the foreign-born, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against the virus are a great antidote to division.
Stories of immigrants and refugees in the medical profession can make a difference. Narratives about the frontline, foreign-born essential workers in grocery stores and restaurants can make a difference in what beliefs and perceptions are embedded in the public’s mind.
Winning the narrative battle sets up to win the policy battle. A united America working together to pull though the pandemic must be the winning story line if we are to defeat a new wave of nativism.
FILED UNDER: covid-19