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February 7, 2014 3

Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias with Education

Crit­i­cism of immi­grant pol­icy is not an excuse to under­mine the human­ity of oth­ers with the kind of vit­riol that dom­i­nated the inter­net, espe­cially Twit­ter, after the Atlanta-based Coca Cola Com­pany aired a com­mer­cial with “Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful,” sung in dif­fer­ent lan­guages and fea­tur­ing a diver­sity of peo­ple dur­ing the Super Bowl.

The term immi­grant is a descrip­tor, not a slur. How­ever, it is often used in a pejo­ra­tive way. For those who are will­ing to den­i­grate oth­ers because of immi­gra­tion sta­tus, per­ceived immi­gra­tion sta­tus, or the mis­guided per­cep­tion that spo­ken lan­guage relates to immi­gra­tion sta­tus, we need to make one thing clear. Bias and hate have no place in civil society.

Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy reminded us in his 1963 accep­tance speech for ADL’s America’s Demo­c­ra­tic Legacy Award, “The con­tri­bu­tion of immi­grants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in reli­gion, in pol­i­tics, in busi­ness, in the arts, in edu­ca­tion, and even in ath­let­ics, and enter­tain­ment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immi­grant background.”

Prej­u­dice is learned and counter speech is an impor­tant part of chal­leng­ing prej­u­dice and bias wher­ever we see it, includ­ing online and in our every­day lives.

Every­one can engage in counter speech by respond­ing when they see bias and chal­leng­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion. Unfor­tu­nately, instances of racism and xeno­pho­bia related to the topic of immi­gra­tion are com­mon. In addi­tion, edu­ca­tors can play a unique role in address­ing bias in soci­ety by using the class­room to chal­lenge biased ideals, and in this case, chal­leng­ing anti-immigrant bias among youth. The les­son plan  “Hud­dled Mass or Sec­ond Class: Chal­leng­ing Anti-Immigrant Bias” for grades 3 to 12 can help edu­ca­tors move our nation closer to a more per­fect, less biased nation. Don’t have the time to do a full anti-bias les­son? Famil­iar­ize your­self with some myths and facts on immi­grants and immi­gra­tion.