Immigration Discrimination Isn’t Something New

Today there are strong opinions in the daily media about the large numbers of Muslim immigrants flooding Europe. Some of the more dramatic critics question their motives, potential religious violence, terrorism, welfare costs and other problems. The very similar situation in the U.S. concerning undocumented Mexican immigrants continues to make headlines and affect political attitudes. 

As a guy who always professes a liberal, let-’em-live mindset, I sometimes find myself unconsciously reacting instinctively to basic prejudice. The constant, blaring news about immigration problems certainly affects everyone. 

For example, just the other morning, while walking down my residential street, I passed a Muslim family in burkas. Instead of a usual neighborly greeting, we just glared at each other. Apparently, earlier we had watched the same TV news.

Suspicion, prejudice and discrimination are nothing new. More than a century ago, my grandparents escaped from Russia and came to America. They were isolated and riduculed here because of their language and lifestyle. Since then, throughout my 90 years, I’ve also experienced it. First, as one of the few Jewish kids in a Christian residence home for fatherless boys, I frequently had to defend myself. It came at me verbally and physically from the usual playground name-calling and bullying.

In wartime Navy duty, the anti-Semitism was often blatantly obvious. Of all the Armed Services, the traditionalist Navy seemed to be the most prejudiced against minorities. Overt discrimination negatively affected assignments, relationships and promotions.

Of course, I wasn’t alone in the prejudice spotlight. In the Navy and elsewhere, name-calling hurled at minorities included Jews, Italians, Hispanics and Asians. And, of course, too often worst of all, the crudely hateful treatment of African Americans.

As serious world immigration problems continue today, there’s not much any individual can do about it. However, I can try to rid myself of the insidious prejudices that blare out with never-ending news and opinions that inundate the media.  

In the late 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt blocked entry into the U.S. of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing German persecution. It doomed them to Nazi death camps. However, in a more kindly moment, he said: Whoever seeks to set one race against another seeks to enslave all races.

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