This blog has gained many new readers over the past year. Because of that, I thought it might be worth sharing a daily “A Look Back” where I share a best post from the past twelve years. You can also see all of my choices for “Best” posts here.
This post appeared in October, 2018.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, President Trump and his allies have been using the “migrant caravan,” comprised of refugees fleeing Central American gang violence, to ramp up fear of immigrants as “invaders.”
Here’s a video that highlights this hysteria:
The killer of eleven worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last week drew a pretty straight line from that rhetoric to his act of terrorism (see Trump’s Caravan Hysteria Led to This from The Atlantic and How Trump-Fed Conspiracy Theories About Migrant Caravan Intersect With Deadly Hatred from The NY Times) and it’s not going overboard to say that it’s reasonable to fear that it won’t be the last work of terror to be inspired by this sort of rhetoric – not to mention, of course, all the countless acts of overt and covert discrimination that many of our students and their families will have to endure as a result.
There are a number of ways we as educators can support our students and their families in this time when they are being so blatantly targeted.
One way is to help our students learn that everyone in our country has the right to work for change in the political arena (see The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change).
There are other specific and practical actions schools can take to act as allies to our students and their families (see The Best Practical Resources For Helping Teachers, Students & Families Respond To Immigration Challenges).
In this post, however, I’d like to share one small activity that we’ve done in the past and will do again this year that could have some impact in combating this anti-immigrant hysteria.
Vox has published a useful piece headlined 8 lessons from psychology that explain Trump’s caravan fearmongering.
Here’s something it says under the heading “it is possible to teach people to turn fear into something more positive”:
Charities have long understood the ”identifiable victim effect,” which suggests that images of singular victims are easier to empathize with than statistics, even when those statistics are astronomical.
It’s fighting emotional anecdotes with emotional anecdotes.
”This is why pictures and stories can be so powerful,” Deborah Small, a professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, told me in 2015. “Identifying and telling the stories of more innocent refugees could make the victim’s case more moving.”
One way we can try to apply this strategy is through our annual Empathy Project, where our immigrant students share their stories with non-immigrant students.
A previous post, Guest Post: What ELLs Taught Our School In A Week-Long Empathy Project, shares all the details, including planning documents, student hand-outs and examples.
We generally have done it later in the year.
It seems like it would be a good idea to move up our timetable….