To My College Students: My Heart Goes Out to You

I WANT TO APOLOGIZE. To my students who are new immigrants from countries on Trump’s list of banned peoples. To my students from Somalia and Iraq, Iran and Sudan. To those who came here as refugees from Bosnia, most of them Muslim, and also from Myanmar, also Muslims. I want to apologize to all of my Muslim students. And to my Nepali students who were forced to leave Bhutan because of their ethnicity and because they are Hindus. The Muslim ban affects them too, because it says that even here in America, you can be persecuted for your religion or your ethnicity, and that even your status here as legal residents does not protect you.

These students—with their elegant head scarves, kangas, and long skirts, with their many languages, their musical accents, their dedication to learning and deep listening—are an essential part of our community and the Muslim ban has struck a deep wound into its heart. I say its heart, even though immigrants are a small minority, because the order offends the very idea of a public college, which has been the portal for immigrants into American life throughout our history. And I say heart in the sense of the part of us that feels sorrow and is the source of our compassion. These immigrants, especially refugees, are human beings, often traumatized from living too close to the existential edge. The threat against them looms over us all, as a harbinger of worse things things to come.

 

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article. Click here to read a PDF version of the full article.

Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:16

ALEXIS LATHEM is the author of the poetry collection, Alphabet of Bones. Poet, environmental journalist, and writing instructor at the Community College of Vermont, she lives on a small farm in Vermo
 
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