Narrative Perspectives: “How well can you tell a dialogue-driven story?”
This year in Design, we were all given a telephoto lens so to practice more with them, we had an assignment where we needed to go out and take pictures of individuals out in public. The point of the assignment was to teach us and help us learn how to capture candid moments and real emotion and to not have every picture we take be posed. Through candid pictures, you’re able to understand how people feel and their mood at that specific moment.
For our citizen project, we used the skills used when practicing our street photography to capture an image that reflected our citizen subject. The point of citizen was to understand someone with a different perspective or who has gone through something completely different than you and then to interview them and write a lyrical essay about it. My subject was an African-American girl who had been adopted when she was a baby. During our interview, she told me, “I just sometimes feel uncomfortable.” I incorporated this quote into my image by placing inside the main subject of the photo’s silhouette.
Citizen Artist Statement
My listener lyric essay represents the perspective of a young girl who was adopted by a family of a different race. The quote I chose to incorporate into my diptych was “I just sometimes feel uncomfortable.” Through my interviewee, I learned more about the challenges that an individual faces when growing up in a different setting than society assumes.
My photo shows an African-American girl at soccer practice kicking the ball by herself, with her teammates behind her facing away from her. I chose this image to exemplify my quote because, beyond the fact that she is at practice with her team, I shot the image through a fence so there are blurry lines that separate the girls from one another. The blurry lines represent the boundaries put in place by society, especially when it comes to race. The fact that her teammates are looking elsewhere also evokes a feeling of isolation and some sadness, however, the girl doesn’t look upset to be by herself and appears to have a sense of belonging. These feelings are meant to contradict each other as do the challenges of living and being brought up in a different setting than you are “supposed” to.
To edit my photo, I used Adobe Photoshop. First, I created a mask of my main subject; adding some color to her clothes and making her pop. I made the rest of my image black and white so that she was the only thing that had color. Creating a selection, I copied her onto a blank canvas to make my diptych. I made her a black silhouette and then inserted my quote onto her silhouette. To make the text fit, I rasterized it and used the warp tool to manipulate the text to make it stretch and reach the edge of her silhouette, while still being readable.
Japanese Stab Binding Book
For part of our Narrative Perspectives Unit, we created Japanese stab binding books. We based these books off of our citizen project. We used quotes that we had obtained in our interviews with our subjects found the correct kanji to communicate it’s meaning and painted them onto vellum sheets. We also printed out those same quotes in English on separate sheets of vellum to include. We created Japanese inspired paintings that we created on Japanese newspaper strips and painted with India ink. We took macro photos of different plants and then on Adobe Photoshop, edited them to make them look like watercolor paintings. You can watch the video down below to see me flip through my book. Most importantly, we created covers for our books. We used Japanese paper and beads to decorate the front and cut everything out ourselves and sized it all. It was really cool to see it come to life after spending so much time on all of the individual pieces!
Minimalist Movie Poster, Tickets and Packaging
My favorite assignment in this unit was creating products for a movie that we came up with. We had to make a minimalist poster, as well as tickets and packaging for a premiere. For my poster, I decided to go with simple lines and a limited color palette to emphasize only the most important aspects of the poster. I chose the name “I Solemnly Swear” because my movie is about a young lawyer who finally gets her first big case and wants to prove herself to all those that doubted her. On the surface, it appears to be a simple although high-end case and in taking on the case, she didn’t realize that there is really much more to it below the surface – forcing her to revisit her past and face her demons. I loved coming up with all the different aspects of the movie and piecing them together.
I Solemnly Swear Poster, Packaging, and Tickets Artist Statement
My story, I Solemnly Swear, is about a newly qualified lawyer working her first case on her own. She’s worked hard for the past couple of years to distinguish herself as one of New York’s top lawyers and now she has the opportunity she needs to prove herself to everyone who has ever doubted her. However, the case’s simple but high-end nature has more to it than meets the eye. Taking on the case, she didn’t realize that she’d have to reconnect with her past and face her locked away demons.
To create the three pieces, I used Adobe Illustrator. On the poster, using the pen and brush tool, I drew the outline of a woman, the main character who is a lawyer, taking an oath while secretly crossing her fingers behind her back. I chose to make her hands red to highlight the contradicting hand actions and to build on the idea of “caught red-handed.” I also created my own font to go with the theme of my film. For the packaging, I reused the font I had created and drew fingerprints on it to add another layer of mystery to the plot of the movie. On the packaging the fingerprints are white, however, for my ticket, they are red to tie it back to the main character on the poster. The packaging encloses the ticket and it opens up piece by piece, just like evidence slowly reveals the truth in a court case. For all three of my pieces, I chose to keep it very simple as the objective was to create minimalist products, which I did through keeping simple lines and limiting my color palette to a few colors.
In Digital Media, we created mandalas to express our style and sense of design in a different way. When I learned that we would be creating mandalas on Adobe Illustrator in Digital Media, I was super excited. It reminded me of when I was in 6th grade and we made some in our art class. However, it was much easier at Freestyle since it was created digitally and the software was set up so it rotated and reflected a portion of the circle so you didn’t have to draw the same things multiple times and make sure they were all exactly the same.
I enjoyed seeing each individual’s and seeing their sense of style and design shine through. Some incorporated animals or certain symbols that were important to them and created beautiful mandalas that represented them. I’m excited to use what I learned in Digital Media making mandalas in the future and with other projects.
Here is a video that I created that shows me making my black and white mandala.
Our most recent project was the Freedom Project. The purpose of this project was to allow us to do whatever we wanted whether that be use the skills we’ve learned in the past two years to create something or to try something completely new. My partner and I, Talar Sarkissian, decided to make a tutorial video on how to make a hot chocolate cake. We got the recipe from zoebakes.com so if you’d like to try making it yourself go to her website and check it out!
To go along with our citizen diptych image, we also wrote a lyrical essay on our citizen subject in our English class. Through our lyrical essays, we did our best to emulate our subject and to portray them as accurately as possible by using the interview we had with them as a reference.
The strands of your friend’s hair are soft between your fingers. They tickle your palm but also leave scratches. Your hand moves to your head and is met with frizzy, tightly coiled curls.
You’re surrounded by the swishing of blonde locks. You imagine your hair long and curly not nappy. You beg your parents for extensions. Your tight curls feel like barbed wire, marking danger and not beauty.
Your hair continued to grow. Your short curls elongated and you loved it when you went swimming or took a bath and your curls relaxed and reached the middle of your back.
The magic seemed to
as your hair dried and your curls restored their natural position, poised and tightly packed on the top of your head.
One day, your hair got so knotted and matted that it had to be cut. Your already compact hair grew even shorter.
You hated it.
You cried in despair as you looked at the fuzz on your head. Maybe it was shame. Maybe it was frustration at the fact it had to be cut. Your family told you you looked like Lupita Nyong’o – beautiful and elegant. Their white arms wrapped around your chocolate skin, attempting comfort. It didn’t stop your confidence from plummeting.
How was this beautiful? They don’t understand what it’s like. They are not you nor like you and will never know how it feels. They say you should feel beautiful but they have the long swishing locks too.
You didn’t feel any of those bubbly feelings. You felt like someone who didn’t fit in and didn’t belong. But you don’t really know why or how to stop this feeling.
Maybe that’s why you wanted extensions so badly. Maybe the extension of your curls would be an olive branch to society. Maybe they’d notice you more.
You traveled to the land of thatch huts and crowded markets. The red dirt coated your throat and the smell of fish drying on the streets awakened your nose. You watched the people selling their goods in the streets and chickens dart around houses and duck under predatory hands. You felt different here. But it wasn’t bad. You felt more
The women all had short hair.
You finally felt it bubbling up in you. You felt pretty.
However, your moments of contentedness were quickly dwindling. As pretty as you felt here, you weren’t staying forever. The reality hit you like ice cold water – pulling you out of your fairytale reverie.
Would you still feel pretty?
You weren’t sure.
You got extensions while you were there. Long black braids that came down to the middle of your back. The process was brutal. The pulling, the untangling, the braiding. All for seven hours.
But don’t people say that beauty is pain?
Coming back to your town, you felt more confident. People noticed the change and complimented you just a little bit more on your appearance.
Sometimes you feel uncomfortable when you’re out with your family. You feel the occasional lingering stares and curious looks that seem to drill right through you. You feel as though everyone’s eyes are on you and yet you are invisible at the same time. Eyes flit around you and your family but no one makes eye contact.
No one says anything.
You figure some things are better left unsaid.
Your mother’s hand rests on your shoulder as you walk into the store. Your siblings show you funny videos and ask you about school. Your skin burns up at stranger’s brazen peering. You feel your hands start to get clammy. Your heart beats just a little bit faster. You push your uneasiness aside and laugh along with your siblings.
You still wonder, however, why do they stare?
Rankine Biss Comparison
In Honors English, we read two books. Cynthia Rankine’s Citizen and Eula Biss’ Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays. After reading these two books, we found similarities and differences between them and wrote a short response comparing the two authors and the topics they wrote about and the perspective they took.
Response to Rankine and Biss
In the dictionary, the word “apology” means “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.” This definition relies implicitly on the ideology that when an apology is made that it is heartfelt and genuine; not that it was forced upon the individual or that they’re just saying it to save face. Both Rankine and Biss make many references to apologies and their different forms and circumstances on which we are called upon to acknowledge our failures or offenses against others.
Although there are many stories in Cynthia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric that talk about apologies, one that stood out the most to me was the story of a boy being pushed on the subway and the man didn’t notice and kept walking until the boy’s mother came up to him and demanded an apology. There are two important aspects of this story: that the man didn’t apologize and the idea that the boy has never been really seen because of his race and has essentially been rendered invisible in society. Rankine wrote, “A man knocked over her son in the subway…He’s okay but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize.” (17) The stranger’s act of not immediately apologizing to the boy for bumping into him has us assume automatically that he didn’t care that it happened. The mother demanding an apology is just a way for the stranger to try and make it right but it isn’t the same as if it would’ve been had he just apologized initially. This leads to the second part of why this story matters. Rankine continues, “…you want it to stop, you want the child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet, to be brushed off by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.” (17) It’s almost as if the narrator feels the need to apologize to the boy for being pushed and the lack of reaction from the stranger. That she wants to apologize for the situation he’s in and to explain it’s not him, it’s his race, which is another thing to apologize for. We never find out if the man apologized to the boy. But does it matter?
In Eula Biss’ essay All Apologies from her book Notes from No Man’s Land, she talks about different kind of apologies and their significance but also their growing lack of sincerity and the idea of apologizing for others. Biss says, “An apology is also an admission of guilt.” (193) Maybe this is why the stranger didn’t apologize. He “didn’t see him” or “didn’t know”. If the boy was invisible to him and he didn’t realize then he’s not “guilty” right? So why apologize? The lack of reaction when the stranger bumped into him prompts us to believe he didn’t really care and really does believe nothing was really wrong. So a forced apology from him would mean nothing too. Biss also talks about the idea that “sorry doesn’t cut it.” She says, “The words ‘sorry doesn’t cut it’ appeared again and again — after each insult, each scratch, each slap. What followed an apology from then on was an enraging reminder that every action is essentially irrevocable.” (189) If every wrong action is something that we will never be able to truly fix or take back, then why bother apologizing? The real thing that makes this encounter an injustice was the fact that the boy was invisible because of his race. So even if the stranger did apologize, it could not possibly encompass everything the boy deserves an apology for.
Throughout history, society has enforced strict boundaries when it comes to race. You’re one or the other. A mix of either or isn’t very accepted. As people’s ideology has become more progressive, it’s become more accepted but it wasn’t always this way. One or the other, one or the other. Never both.
In Cynthia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, she includes multiple art pieces from various artists to enhance her lyrical essays. There is one piece called Untitled: Four Etchings by Glenn Ligon. (52-53) It is two canvases and stamped on them is two different phrases – one on each side. One side states, “I DO NOT ALWAYS FEEL COLORED” and the other says, “I FEEL MOST COLORED WHEN I AM THROWN AGAINST A SHARP WHITE BACKGROUND”. These pieces illustrate the feeling of how when a person of color is surrounded by white people, it’s when they feel most colored and rendered hypervisible. Whereas when they’re with other people of color, they don’t feel colored due to them not being the only one. However, when an individual is mixed, it creates a more confusing narrative and introduces a new complexity.
In Eula Biss’ essay Relations in her book Notes from No Man’s Land, she talks about the relationship between races in family settings and how it is projected in society. During this essay, Biss is living with her cousin in New York City. One day, as they are waiting for the train, her cousin says, “‘It’s hard for me…I have a lot of white family.’” (32) Biss goes on to say, “At the time, I couldn’t fully appreciate what she was saying because I was hurt by the implication that I was a burden to her.” (32) Her cousin is mixed race. Her father is black and mother is white. So growing up with “a lot of white family”, we can infer that she was very conscious of her race. However, she wasn’t completely one race of the other. She was stuck in the middle so that makes it even more increasingly difficult to know: How do you identify?
Biss and her cousin were later asked to be a part of the census. When it came to selecting what race they represented, the census taker automatically puts Biss down as white. For her cousin, however, she struggles to know which category to put herself in. “‘What are my options?’ she asked first…Our census taker would list all of these options several times, stumbling over the words, until he eventually handed the form to my cousin in frustration. Part of the problem was that the list did not include her first choice — ‘Mixed Race.’ But it did, unlike the 1990 census, allow the census taker to mark more than one race. Eventually, he marked both ‘White’ and ‘Black.’” (34) The fact that she didn’t feel comfortable identifying exclusively with either “white” or “black” exemplifies the middle ground between “I DO NOT ALWAYS FEEL COLORED” and “I FEEL MOST COLORED WHEN I AM THROWN AGAINST A SHARP WHITE BACKGROUND.” This new idea of being “mixed race” isn’t talked about much in Citizen and only briefly in Notes from No Man’s Land. I think this identity of “mixed race” would make for an interesting third canvas in Glenn Ligon’s art piece and could represent a whole other thread of consciousness and self-identification.
Biss, Eula. Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays. Graywolf Press, 2009.
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Graywolf Press, 2015.
In preparation for our upcoming Zenith project, we wrote a research paper on a topic that we were interested in and might expand on for our Zenith project. I wrote my research paper about the current immigration crisis at the U.S-Mexico border, how the U.S is handling it, different perspectives on the topic and possible solutions.
Asylum Seekers: Seeking Refuge or Seeking Chaos?
In discussions about immigration, a controversial topic has been who should we allow into the U.S, specifically at the Southern border. On one side, some argue that we need to be aware of who is coming in so that we can protect ourselves against terrorists and outsiders who could pose a threat to the American people. On the other side, some assert that many of the individuals at the Southern border are refugees and asylum seekers who have left everything they know to construct a healthier, safer life for themselves and their family. In the midst of this heated debate, a variety of news outlets have presented information on the subject. What many probably don’t realize is how much the news influences their view. Subtle body language, changes in tone and sometimes just outright hostility all cultivate and mold someone’s point of view. The type of statistics and facts and the way they are presented also leave lasting impressions. I am researching how media biases can affect American perspectives and pit immigrants and citizens against each other subconsciously due to subconscious or intentional actions.
Many Americans are not keeping a close eye on every single political discussion occurring and that’s where the media comes in. The media’s job is to inform us – American citizens – of what is happening the capital and around the nation, the important details we need to know and to educate us on the most pressing issues. However many don’t take the time to cross reference and see if what they are hearing and reading is accurate. What they’re reading could just be a bunch of lies or it could all be true or there could be a few nuances where the information isn’t exactly right. Darrel M. West, an author, political scientist and commentator, wrote in his book Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S Immigration Policy, “Whatever the medium, its impact often occurs through subtle or indirect mechanisms. For example, news coverage of minority groups that relies on stereotypes that can activate preexisting negative attitudes, leading people to harsher assessments than otherwise would be the case. At other times, media effects occur by priming attitudes or affecting what people consider to be important. For example, violent drug murders in Mexico may lead people to associate crime with Mexicans and then with Mexicans migrating to the U.S.” (“Chapter Four: Problematic Media Coverage) Some media coverage only perpetuates the cycle of anti-immigration rhetoric and some seek to uplift incoming migrants. In the past with media coverage of immigration, the U.S has not painted immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in a positive light. West added, “Throughout much of American history, reporting on immigration issues has been biased. A review of U.S print and broadcast news coverage from 1995 to 2005 undertaken by Kamala Pande found that it was ‘twice as likely to stress the costs of immigration as the benefits.’ News reporters typically focused on immigration’s costs to taxpayers, illegals taking government benefits, or the high costs of border security, Pande found.” (“Chapter Four: Problematic Media Coverage”) Today, we see many news outlets who still focus on those specific stories as the number of immigrants traveling to the U.S grows.
Attention has been drawn to the Southern border recently due to the arrival of the caravan from Central America, of which many are seeking asylum due to political discord or violence, while others are looking for opportunities to leave poverty and unemployment behind. (Correal) The Syrian refugee crisis has also created a lot of controversies and sparked firey partisan debates. Americans today tend to believe that the individuals looking to move to the U.S all have a hidden agenda, where they plan to create chaos and promote anarchy, rather than create a better life for themselves. However, this is not the first time that the U.S has had immigrants at our borders seeking asylum and searching for opportunities. Jerry Schwartz, editor-at-large for the Associated Press, in an article about America’s complicated relationship with immigration wrote, “In 1921 and 1924, in the aftermath of World War I and the Red Scares that followed the Russian Revolution, the first quotas took effect, setting limits for immigration from countries that were seen as undesirable…Jewish refugees from Europe were blocked during and after World War II — first because of fears that they might be German sympathizers, then because of fears that they were Communists.” (Schwartz) Now, America often opts to omit or forget these decisions about immigration. Schwartz aims to remind us of our attitude towards immigrants in the past and how it is now considered a “black spot” in our nation’s history. Rebecca Korbin, an assistant professor of history at Columbia University, remarked, “History doesn’t look too kindly on this, because we know how preposterous this was.” (Schwartz) These events aren’t really talked or taught about – only briefly in U.S history classes for the first time in high school. How will we look back on the migrant crisis in 50 years? 100 years? Will Americans be ashamed and wonder why we resisted the migration of hundreds of thousands of people? There’s no way to tell for sure. But if the past is any indication of our future, it’s a likely response.
Currently, the majority of connotations surrounding immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are not positive. The news has gradually become more and more polarized. Main news sources, such as CNN and Fox News, may report on the same topic but have extremely different narratives. For example, CNN is a well-known liberal news source and so they will typically take up the more Democratic viewpoint and present their news in that way. Fox News is a well-known conservative news source who often picks up the Republican defense and presents their news in that way. The harsh divide between the two often leaves viewers wondering who is right and who is wrong and causes tension to build between political parties and viewers alike.
Bill O’Reilly hosts the segment “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News. On November 23, 2015, O’Reilly talked about the Syrian Refugee crisis on air titling the segment, “The Real Story about Syrian Refugees.” O’Reilly often shared his opinion and offered multiple statistics that aligned with his viewpoint throughout the segment. He began by telling the viewer that “because of politics the truth is not being told.” (O’Reilly) Already, he has his viewers on the edge of their seats because no one wants to be lied to, especially something that has been in conversation with national security. O’Reilly then presents numbers in relation to the number of “convicted criminal aliens released by ICE in 2013.” (O’Reilly) He bombards the viewer with statistic after statistic – all negative and harmful to individuals’ perception of who these people are trying to enter the U.S. These statistics are not necessarily incorrect. However, many people assume that all immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are rapists, criminals, and terrorists because that is what they hear in the news. There are some that are rapists, criminals, and terrorists. But not all of them. A few people’s actions should not dictate or demean an entire people group.
Omar Alwadh, a Syrian refugee who came to the states in 2015, said in an interview with CNN, “I understand [why people are afraid]. There is a level of fear people will have. But they would not bring me here unless they knew I was a good person and knew my background.” (Cooper) Omar is a father to a family of three children with one on the way and currently works in lawn maintenance. He told Tuchman, the interviewer, that before the war he was a carpenter and he would love to go back to that work. (Cooper) He wants his children to go to school and get an education and to build a safe, stable life in the U.S. (Cooper) To evoke sympathy from the viewer, footage is shown of the streets of Syria with rubble falling from crumbling buildings, citizens running trying to find safety and men in tanks with guns surveying the city. The Alwadh family followed the laws, applying for visas to the U.S and getting approval to come. They now reside in Ohio, an area with other Syrian refugees, and have been settling into their new life safe from the war. (Cooper)
Another instance of an immigration crisis is at our Southern Border. Most recently, there was a caravan of up to 7,000 individuals that originated in Honduras and came up through Central America and Mexico to reach the U.S-Mexico Border to seek asylum. (Correal) Experts are unsure of the size as there are no formal “sign-ups” or “check-ins.” Now there is another caravan forming and is rumored to have 2,000 individuals coming to the border. Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, said, “The President’s message has been right all along. We have a crisis at the border, both in national security and the humanitarian crisis. Democrats have got to stop ignoring the problem, sit down with the President at the table and help us come to a solution.” (Fox News) Currently, the U.S is in the midst of it’s longest government shutdown in history and it’s all about the wall. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, instead of Americans blaming Democrats for lack of progress with the wall, most believe Trump and the GOP are more responsible for the ongoing government shutdown. (Clements) “53 percent say Trump and the Republicans are mainly at fault, and 29 percent blame the Democrats in Congress. Thirteen percent say both sides bear equal responsibility for the shutdown.” (Clements) Those are the results for the U.S as a whole, however, if you look at the results of the poll when just Democrats were asked and when just Republicans were asked, the partisan divide is obvious. Even though Republicans seem to be taking most of the blame for the shutdown – which originated due to disagreements about the wall – support for building a wall has grown in the past year according to the Washington Post. “Today, 42 percent say they support a wall, up from 34 percent last January. A slight majority of Americans (54 percent) oppose the idea, down from 63 percent a year ago.” (Clements) Former ICE Director, Tom Homan, believes that to stop caravans from coming to the U.S, loopholes in border security need to be closed and the only way to do so is if the Democrats stop refusing to negotiate about the wall. (Fox News) Unlike O’Reilly’s segment on Syrian refugees, Fox News’ America’s Newsroom and their on-air guests did not use statistics nor did they use blatant detrimental terminology to describe asylum seekers, refugee or immigrants. They identified the caravan and the number of people coming to the border as a problem but did not address opinions or facts about individuals coming in the caravan. Homan did say, “Every place a border barrier has been built, illegal immigration has declined. That’s a fact.” (Fox News) But he did not offer any concrete numbers at the time to back up his statement. According to Homeland Security, the new walls being built are extremely effective.
“How effective is this new border wall? On Sunday, when a violent mob of 1,000 people stormed our Southern border, we found the newly constructed portions of the wall to be very effective. In the area of the breach, a group of people tore a hole in the old landing mat fence constructed decades ago and pushed across the border. U.S. Border Patrol agents who responded to the area ultimately dispersed the crowd, which had become assaultive, and apprehended several individuals. All of the individuals were either apprehended or retreated into Mexico. That evening, the fence was repaired. There were no breaches along the newly constructed border wall areas.” (“Walls Work”)
The language used to describe the old wall and the individuals coming across the border all had negative connotations. The website only contains this story to answer the question, “How effective is this new border wall?” There are no hard facts or numbers to support claims. Only one story in an instance where it was successful.
The President tweeted, “There are now 77 major or significant walls built around the world, with 45 countries planning on building walls. Over 800 miles of walls have been built in Europe since 2015. They have all been recognized as close to 100% successful. Stop the crime at our Southern Border!” (@realDonaldTrump) He continues to keep his promise to his supporters of doing what he can to get a new border wall built quickly. However, in the midst of the talk of the construction of the wall, the humanitarian crisis associated with the immigration crisis is being forgotten and pushed to the side. Sister Norma Pimentel who is working at the border with immigrants said in an NPR interview, “…unfortunately, when we hear all these narrative of the importance of wall and sending out criminals and protecting us from crime and all these ugly people that are coming, I realize that they’re failing to see a part of the immigration reality that we see on a daily basis – people who are just like us, who are suffering and hurting and in need of great help. I believe what our Holy Father speaks to us about – the importance of building bridges and not walls.” (Garcia-Navarro) Rumors started by Fox News and other conservative media outlets have been circulating that immigrants coming to the U.S in the caravan “could bring dangerous diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, and smallpox.” (Fredrick) There’s been no evidence of such diseases being carried, some of which have been eradicated. The majority of health problems nonprofits in Mexico and on by the border have been seeing are asthma, colds, the flu, and blisters from walking long distances without proper footwear or rest. The rumors leave the people who are suffering from other illnesses and conditions without the opportunity for proper care and leaving the impression that they plan on infecting American citizens and causing breakouts of a variety of diseases. Among the health problems caravan members are currently facing are psychological as well. Marlen Nava Miranda, a psychologist working with caravan members said, “These people are all suffering losses: loss of their country, their culture, family, maybe children,” she says. “They are wracked with fear, guilt, uncertainty, and anxiety.” (Fredrick) There is more than meets the eye and the “facts” that the American media are spreading only deteriorate people’s perspectives on the caravan and make them warier and untrusting of them, which does no good for anyone whether they are an American citizen or immigrant.
On CNN News, CNN News Anchor Jake Tapper spoke to Bill Weir, a CNN correspondent, who was in Mexico, about the situation with the caravan and their trek to the border. Tapper asked Weir about the people, who they were, where they were from and what their plans are. Weir responded with, “The insinuation [by Trump] that there are Middle Easterners in this group, I think the subtext we all know is ‘terrorists.’ You’d have to be a really sadistic terrorist because…these people are walking 2,000 miles to the border with very, very low odds of actually getting through.” (Tapper) The camera panned over the group of people outside of Tapachula, Mexico with children on their backs and holding their belongings. A few smiled and waved at the camera or flashed peace signs. Weir went on to say,
“Another thing I want to keep in context while we’re talking about it is that 20 years ago the border patrol arrested north of a million people a year. Now, it’s about ⅓ of that number. Yes, the arrests of family members have spiked in the last three months since the family separation policy ended. But in the grand scope of caravans coming north for opportunity or to flee violence, this is just another day in the life of folks who have been doing this for a very long time. The fact that they have to do this, carrying their children, walking 2,000 miles (and often in flip-flops)…I know we live in the age of conspiracy theories but what would it take to convince you to do something like that?” (Tapper)
You can tell through Weir’s answers that he is not buying the story of Middle Easterners being in the caravan or that these people are terrorists trying to get into the U.S, as the President has alluded to. It’s important to recognize that each of these news sources, Fox News and CNN, are conservative and liberal respectively. It is always recommended to look at both sides and other independent sources that are not as partisan to understand what is truly occurring. Stories and facts can be manipulated to get a certain reaction or to highlight a specific aspect.
TV shows and movies have started to address some of the issues with immigration more recently as well. For example, Bull, a law drama TV show, aired an episode that focused on illegal immigration of asylum seekers on December 3, 2018. The premise of the episode was that Bull’s top investigator, Danny, discovered that her boyfriend, Gabriel, had fled to the U.S seven years ago out of fear of being murdered in his own country due to political violence. He is found and taken to court where the judge rules that he will be deported. Although they were unsuccessful in finding a way to allow Gabriel to stay in the U.S, he was deported to Germany where he was given political asylum. Rebecca Downs, an MRC Culture TV Blogger, believed that it was naive of the writers to tie the story up into a concise, neat ending. “The answer to these real-world immigration questions are not simple, and require a system of laws, order, and process, something [the] Judge…was not wrong about, despite how the show seeks to portray him. To Hollywood, however, these questions have clear cut answers, with idealistic themes about immigrants, regardless of status, being good people, our friends, and neighbors who belong in this country.” (Downs) Gabriel was a former heart surgeon and the reason he was discovered as an illegal immigrant was because he saved a man’s life at a restaurant. When he initially came to the U.S seven years previous, he had been promised a visa by his lawyer, which he received – but it was a vacation visa that was only good for two weeks and the lawyer ran off with the remainder of the money. Downs points out, “Viewers are meant to sympathize with Gabriel. He’s a heart surgeon and because he is so smart, he’s in danger of losing his life back home. And he tried to go about some sort of process, but a lawyer took all of his money and ripped him off. What is the guy supposed to do?” (Downs) Though the show is airing an episode on this topic, seemingly what are the producer’s and writer’s feelings about it based on the episode? Downs believes that the stance they take is that illegal immigrants shouldn’t have to hide like Gabriel did for seven years, but instead should have a second chance and be able to build a new life – regardless of if they broke the law to gain such an opportunity. Downs observed,
“The show gives its clearest stance on illegal immigration when Bull has Danny testify on Gabriel’s behalf. She is initially planning on asking “that judge how he sleeps knowing he’s sending people to certain death,” but is then rightly reminded by Bull that such is not an appropriate way to get a judge on your side.
Instead [Bull] tells [Danny]:
You want to make that judge understand why Gabriel should be here, not shame him for wanting to send him away. You need to go in there and be that man’s advocate. Tell his story. Talk about what makes him special– not what the judge can do for Gabriel but what Gabriel can do for us, for this country…” (Downs)
This sentiment is echoed in the University of Phoenix’s most recent ad campaign titled, “A Degree Doesn’t Change Just You.” They have released a few videos depicting immigrants who came to the U.S and succeeded in their given field and paved the way for the rest of their family to have the ability to be successful and to also get a higher education. In one titled, “To My Great Granddaughter”, it shows a woman who immigrated to the U.S, overcame the obstacles of living in a new country and worked hard to receive an MBA and to establish a better life for herself. (“University of Phoenix: A Degree Doesn’t Just Change You by 180LA”) The message is that the people coming here are hard workers and what they want is a job, higher education and another shot at life. In another commercial, it tells the story of the time that alumni Carmen Bravo saved a man’s life during a marathon. She came to the U.S from low social standing and went to school to become a nurse. It was while she was running in the middle of a marathon that she found herself keeping a man who had suffered from cardiac arrest alive for 22 minutes until an ambulance arrived. (University of Phoenix) The most impactful part of the commercial when we learn that the narrator of the commercial was the man who Bravo saved. Ending with an American citizen whose life was changed for the better due to the influence of an immigrant is placed to dispel any doubts that the viewer might have about not allowing individuals to come to the U.S for a proper higher education.
With the varying viewpoints that are represented across the U.S, the partisan divide can be seen in experts who are sharing their opinion on how to fix the immigration crisis as well. Ned Ryun, the CEO of American Majority – a conservative organization that trains candidates – believes that in order for both sides to reach an agreement on how to handle the situation, both sides will have to make many compromises.
“Understanding political realities, many on the center-right are willing to make compromises to give our nation a more sensible immigration policy. One element of this compromise would be to create a path to citizenship for the nearly 700,000 illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and now protected by the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program – but we will do this only in return for major concessions from Democrats.
These concessions include: full funding to improve security on our southern border, including to build the wall candidate Trump promised the American people we would get if he was elected president; an end to chain migration; an end to sanctuary cities that refuse to work with the federal government to enforce our nation’s immigration laws; mandatory use by all employers of the federal government’s E-Verify system to electronically confirm if a person is authorized to work in the U.S.; and the implementation of a merit-based immigration system similar to those used by Canada and Australia.” (Ryun)
This long list of partisan compromises makes it difficult to see currently how Democrats and Republicans could come to a compromise. Other experts suggested that the problem could be solved by helping other countries’ infrastructures. Leon Rodriguez, former Director of U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services at Homeland Security under the Obama Administration, said, that the main reason individuals flee their home countries is because they have become unsafe and to slow the number of people coming, we should help improve the environments in countries where the majority of immigrants are from. “Let’s look at Honduras — insanely high homicide rate, large gang rates, [the] complete inability of civil authority…Until that shifts, we’re still going to see migration,” he said in a CNBC article in response to the end of family separations at the border. “I don’t care how high the wall is, I don’t care who we separate. History has taught that over and over and over again.” (Breuninger)
Above all, it is most important to remember that immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are human, just like American citizens. What we see on the internet, social media and TV may not always be true and even when it is, it may be manipulated in some way or not the complete story. It’s important to look for and identify both sides of an issue before solidifying your decision of where you stand. Most importantly, make sure websites, articles and videos that you share with others are reliable and credible. Spreading fake news and unreliable sources only perpetuate the problem and creates more problems. The benefits that come from not making assumptions, stopping the expansion of untrustworthy sources and treating everyone you meet as a human being regardless of race, rage, ethnicity or origin, will cultivate a more inviting, open culture that allows the true meaning of what it is to be an American to shine through.
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