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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Dismantling Misconceptions About Undocumented and Immigrant Workers

The “Dismantling Misconceptions about Undocumented and Immigrant Workers,” event on Thursday, Nov. 29, was an event geared toward addressing the stereotypes of immigrant communities and fostering an open discussion about removing these stereotypes in society. The event began with an icebreaker, wherein participants were provided with an empty paper bag and a handful of rocks, before the event coordinators began to read questions such: Do you ever have to worry about being checked again at the airport? Do you feel safer removing religious items? Are you worried about religious profiling? Are you scared of random searches? Are you afraid to return to your country? Whenever a participant’s answer was “yes,” they dropped a rock into their bag. At the end of the question session, everyone’s bags were mixed, and each participant received a new bag with a weight different to their own. This was the point of the exercise: to realize the weight people carry around, or the privilege others have. One woman remarked on the exercise, “the sound as well as the weight was very powerful.” Another participant remarked, “I realized there’s a lot more that I let go, and pieces of privilege are taken away from you the heavier your bag gets.”

The event coordinators then went on to divide the participants into three groups, which gathered common immigrant misconceptions. Group 2 brainstormed, “Immigrants are here to steal jobs,” “Immigrants are criminals,” “Immigrants are less educated,” “Immigrants don’t want to assimilate,” “Immigrants take advantage of government funded programs,” “All immigrants are illegal,” “People of color are quicker to be termed immigrants,” “Immigrants don’t contribute to society,” “One narrative fits every immigrant,” “Immigrants don’t have right to complain about discrimination,” and “Immigrants are the perpetrator not the victim.” Following the brainstorming session, participants were asked to gather around in a circle to discuss these misconceptions.

One participant remarked that the complacency she saw in Caucasians was threatening because, as she states, “History is a circle, not a line of regression.” One participant noted that the reason why such misconceptions existed were likely because, “the media plays a big role in negative stereotypes of immigrants.” Another noted that it was education, not the media, at fault, believing that “young minds need to be guided in the right direction.” A DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient stated, “As a DACA recipient, I internalize a lot of immigrant stereotypes and have to remind myself that I am more than what they say I am.”

A discussion regarding identity in the face of immigrant stereotypes followed, where one participant mentioned, “my identity is stripped because I have to work hard to fit in,” and “[an immigrant is] treated as a tool not as a human being.” People also spoke about the hardships immigrants must face when arriving in the U.S.: ”I have to prove myself 10 times over if I want to live here” and “If you walk in and you’re dark, you’re seen as, at worst, a leech and, at best, a replacement.” Others spoke about how arriving in the U.S. has forced them to reconfigure their identity, as “it’s like swinging on a pendulum; not quite one thing but not quite the other.” But the discussion ended on a positive note, with one individual remarking that, “Maybe in a 100 years, old New England names will include “Chang” or “Patel,” as well as the ones today. “That’s a dream we should make into a reality,” was the ending note of an event that delved deep into misconceptions about immigrants and our duty as citizens to dismantle them.