America. The country known to other nations as the “melting pot” of free expression, free will, free speech, and endless opportunity. America is ranked as one of the top five richest nations as it equates to the total value of goods and services produced in this nation. And according to World Economic Forum, the United States is number 13 in gross domestic product(GDP).
America is also one of the most diverse countries in the world, but surprisingly not one of the top 50 according to the World Atlas. The United States ranks as number 85 on the ranking of ethnic diversity.
Though, we may not be in the top five in terms of diversity, America is rich in culture. America is home to one of the largest immigration populations in the world. America’s immigrant population grew by4.6 million from 2010 to 2017. Sorry to burst your bubble President Trump. As of 2018, the U.S. houses 61.6 million immigrants.
As a result of this, America’s leaders call themselves generous and welcoming, but once immigrants come to this country, they don’t feel as welcome as you would assume.
Yes, they are introduced to more freedoms, if they didn’t already possess them in their own country, and they get a chance be a part of the diverse culture of America. They get to meet people who don’t look like them and make friends with people who may not believe everything they believe. Believe it or not, most immigrants want and enjoy being around people who do not look like them or share the same lifestyle. America is rich in its diversity of culture, style, and practices, but as a nation we have not fully accepted or encouraged learning about the culture of other nations who now reside in our nation. It’s like having a new roommate, you both have to take time to learn about each other to know how to treat each other. It is compromise on both ends.
“A lot of Americans don’t know about other places outside of America,” VCU sophomore Sophia Agyenim-Boateng said. “And when you look at it, it’s also the educational systems’ fault and the individual’s fault for not wanting to learn and just take a look.”
Agyenim-Boateng is from Ghana and has been in America for most of her life. Not only is her story important, but her opinion matters. In America, we tend to push minority opinion and culture to the side. But, the more Americans do that, the more stereotyping, generalizing and assuming will prevail.
Things have changed in the world and have changed in America due to minorities and cultural differences. It is time for our tongues and minds to reflect that.
“They [Americans] make a lot of assumptions and group people into different stereotypes and if you are a part of a certain group, they assume things about you even if they don’t know you personally.” said freshman Hermela Tesfaye.
Tesfaye moved to America when she was ten years old from Ethiopia. One of the reasons she came to VCU was because of the diversity of the campus. Diversity is one of things she raves about in America. She says that most people are nice and the judgmental comments and grouping don’t happen whenever she walks in a room. But, there are still moments when she has an underlying feeling of being judged and not wanting to make anyone else uncomfortable just because she doesn’t look or act the way Americans do.
One of the reasons many immigrants come to America is due to the diversity of culture, but once they get here there are one part missing: full acceptance.
Hermela said something that really stuck and that is: America is beautifully diverse, but the beauty fades when ignorance prevails and trumps the meaning behind why diversity is so important and so prominent in America.
I have known both Sophia and Hermela, for almost a year now, which is not an extensive amount of time, but I am learning who they are as people–not Americanized people–but people from their own country who reside in America. I respect them, just as they respect me.
This issue all comes back to ignorance. Ignorance does not mean stupidity and it does not mean I am calling anyone dumb. Ignorance simply means being unaware.
Well here’s the solution: take the first step to learn.
Americans have to take the time to learn about other cultures, not group them into categories that are usually based on presumptions. Most immigrants are very much willing to speak and want to know your story. Approach them with respect of course and let them tell their story. But they don’t want to be stereotyped just as much as Americans don’t want to be stereotyped as lazy, ignorant or immoral.
We all have a story, no one should try to write it for someone else.
Just like my father always said, “Respect what you don’t know, you may learn something.”
By: Imani Thaniel
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