I attended the Fort Sill protest in response to the separation and detainment of migrant children. On July 20, hundreds of people from across the nation gathered with fists raised in dissent of government policy. My mind, however, was not singularly focused. I kept thinking about how race and immigration continue to be at the forefront of our social consciousness.
I think of the recent chants directed toward Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and her colleagues, all of whom are women of color, to “send her back” and “go back home.” These conversations have trumped the typical news cycles on job growth, global warming and foreign relations. From the outside looking in, one would think America was not a nation of immigrants.
But according to a recent Ipsos1 poll, 41% of Americans say they have a parent or grandparent who emigrated from another country or that they themselves immigrated. Further, there is virtually no difference among parties in the answering of this question, with 45% Democrats and 43% Republicans responding affirmatively to having this close familial connection to immigration.
Pew Research predicts that in 2020, Hispanics will for the first time be the largest racial minority group eligible to vote, accounting for just over 13% — slightly more than black voters. And new voters, known as Generation Z (age 18-23), are expected to be 45% nonwhite.
Meanwhile, immigrants are being severed from their families when seeking asylum. Our country continues to have a Muslim ban in effect; keeping thousands of American citizens from family members overseas. And women of color in the highest places of power are being told to “go back home.”
But “go back home” doesn’t really mean what it says. It doesn’t mean if you’re the child of immigrants and you were born in Kansas, but now live in Oklahoma, that you should go back to Kansas.
“Go back home” means you don’t belong here. It means if you don’t look, talk or pray a certain way, you don’t belong on this land. It means the American dream is not for you.
As a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, as a Jew, as an advocate for the Oklahoma Muslim community, which part of me is not home? Who of the people I work with every day is not home? Who that I worship with on Fridays, is not home? Who is deserving of human dignity and a home in America?
The 2020 presidential election is likely to hinge on cultural conflicts rather than economic and foreign policy concerns. As we move into the 2020 election cycle, we must ask ourselves: Will we embrace the diversity that has always made America great, or will we allow hate to continue dividing us?
Lani Habrock is the government affairs director for the Council on American Islamic Affairs, Oklahoma Chapter.