Op-Ed

This is not first time whites have likened others to animals

Donna Eder
Donna Eder

There has been a nationwide outrage over the separation of children from parents seeking asylum in our country. While President Donald Trump has called for no further separation of families, the fate of the children already in detention remains unknown. Many people are feeling helpless about the way these families have been treated and how asylum seekers with children will be treated in the future.

To justify such extreme measures as separating families, Trump has said that illegal immigrants aren’t people — they are animals. Further, he has described some immigrants as infesting our country — a term generally used in reference to insects or rats.

We will only regain a sense of our power if we put this moment in its historic context.

This is not the first time white people have taken young children from their parents and likened them to unfeeling animals. Similar justifying beliefs were held regarding the mistreatment of Native Americans and Africans, also comparing them to animals. This belief has been a fundamental one held by many whites — mainly toward non-whites although the Irish were once called white apes.

We should not view this uncaring stance as the product of one immoral man, but as a reminder of a long history of what racial domination has looked like in America. This is all the more reason to find ways to take a stand and be part of redoing this detestable history.

What can we do? For one thing, we can use any discretionary funds we possess to support candidates who are speaking out against policies that involve long-term detention of children or separation without plans for reunification and instead speaking about a need for a clearer moral compass.

At the same time, we can continue to openly discuss the underlying myth that associates some people with unfeeling animals. Since most sentient beings have feelings, it is time to simply say: These people are not artificial objects.

Any parent who has even been unexpectedly separated from his or her children knows the intense sense of anxiety about their welfare. Others were once children in similar situations — children filled with terror and grief. Those family members who have been separated have these same feelings — ones we would not wish on our worst enemies.

Taking action by supporting candidates who believe that greatness has never been about racial domination but about moral attributes is our best opportunity to redo this painful part of our country’s history.

Donna Eder, a retired sociology professor, lives in Berea.

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