Tough Talk addresses immigrant, international student experience

Asia Key, The Black Bear – “The safest place in the world to be is a Trump rally,” Donald Trump said in a video by the New York Times that highlighted the atmosphere at his political gatherings. Attendees made comments ranging from “Muslim is not a religion partner, it’s an ideology.” to “F–* political correctness!” It showed protesters being violently thrown out, a black man walking up the steps to an exit was met with an elbow to the face.

One woman screamed, “If you don’t speak English and don’t contribute, get out!”

This was the reference point for the Tough Talk held on Tuesday, Nov. 1, in Strong Hall. The topic was the immigrant and international student experience. Scott Worman, an associate professor of anthropology, facilitated the event. The first thing he asked was, how would international students feel if they heard people talking like they were in the video?

Staff and students speculated that immigrant and international students must have a great fear of social interactions. Participants said hearing things like what Trump supporters were saying at his rallies could make it seem as though all Americans view immigrants negatively.

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Saudi Arabian students lead presentation on their country at an AIS meeting. Photo by Asia Key.

 Aline dos Santos Gomes, president of the Association of International Students, said she has more confusion than fear.

“Every time I see a Trump sign, I’m just like, ‘How?’” Santos Gomes said. “Honestly, I just want to know their reasons. I want to know why a person in their right mind could vote for Trump. Most of what they say is it’s because of economic reasons but … are they like blind or deaf? They don’t hear what Trump says about all those people?”

“I want to know why a person in their right mind could vote for Trump.” – Santos Gomes

Santos Gomes is a Brazilian international student in her fourth year at Missouri State. She said she has not experienced racism toward her personally, though she has heard people speak ill of Latinos in general.

She reiterated that this kind of speech doesn’t scare her. She is mostly in disbelief that someone who holds these sentiments could get this far in the presidential race.

“Its very sad,” Santos Gomes said. “I still think he should be in jail right now for the things he says and the people he insults. I’m offended about the things he said about women. It’s unbelievable to think that this guy could be the next president of the United States.”

Worman then said these ideas are not new ones to Americans.

“The kinds of views that are being expressed there, Donald Trump is not the first person to come up with those,” Worman said. “They don’t exist because of him. There was something there that he has maybe made more prominent.

“Where do those ideas come from?”  

One participant responded that many people shared those sentiments back in the time of her grandparents youth, crediting a culture that taught “the whites were superior.”

Another pointed out that anti-immigrant and racist sentiments were probably passed down from generation to generation since slavery began.

Jenay Lamy, a Green Dot program coordinator, added that these ideas can be based on one’s geographical location.

“I think students, especially from rural areas, have a hard time seeking different kinds of ideas and I think students that are from more urban areas, that seems to be a little more natural for them because it’s something that already kind of fits within their lifestyle,” Lamy said. “I think it’s period wise, but also where you come from and your upbringing too.”

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Saudi Arabian bills passed around during AIS presentation on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Photo by Asia Key.

Wilson Paul, a senior studying gerontology and psychology, said these sentiments stem from ignorance, and that is no excuse.

“I think it’s just a lack of knowledge and lack of understanding,” Paul said. “I guess they just need to learn more. The stuff that used to be OK is not OK anymore. People need to be open to new ideas.”

Paul shared an anecdote about a friend who asked him the significance of blackface.

Character actor T.D. “Daddy”  Rice dawned a tattered suit and darkened his face and hands in the summer of 1830, and performed for a white audience as folk character Jim Crow. He used broken speech and the song and dance, Jump Jim Crow, to create a fabricated image of a slave.

His blackface minstrel show gained popularity in the United States and across Europe, and variations of his act were performed by other theater groups in one of the first displays of national entertainment.  

Blackface minstrelsy perpetuated many of the stereotypes about African Americans that exist even to present.

Paul said that a mere willingness to learn is a concept people should grasp.

“Some people may feel that it’s not their right or responsibility to teach somebody or explain to them that ‘Hey, this is wrong,’” Paul said. “But if you don’t say it to them and if you don’t know it, how else are they going to get that information?

“We have to be willing to make changes by informing people, instead of saying you should know this already so I’m not gonna tell you anything.”

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