As we awaited word about the suspects in the Boston bombings that claimed so many lives and left too many injured, several faculty members and administrators have mentioned to me their concerns about the spillover effects of the tragedy. They worry, as I do, about whether the public can restrain itself from irrationally generalizing from the young perpetrators to the people of the Chechen Republic and to immigrants as a group.
There are, of course, many questions about the motives of the two brothers—about whether they acted independently, as most are surmising, and about what more they might have planned had their identities not been determined.
Many of us have experienced being judged or vilified because we are members of a group that has found itself miscast at an unfortunate moment or for long periods by misguided, hateful individuals or by sectors in communities from which our ancestors came, as well as here in the U.S.
Narratives of the suffering and the pain borne as a consequence by many innocents can fill the pages of the world's history book.
Remembering all of this and attending to the values of our profession, we have an important role as social workers to remind everyone that the actions of a few, however horrendous, should not be used to justify condemnations or raise suspicions about Chechens or about other immigrants to the U.S., just because they are different.
The vast majority of those who make the difficult journey to our country come because of their yearning for a better life for their children, their belief in the American dream, and because they are fleeing conditions that have been unbearable in their countries of birth.
Once here, life is not always easy. Many face adversities including deep discrimination, but hold fast nonetheless to the belief that they will be able to earn a place at the table of life in the U.S.—by the side of others who have managed to persevere and prove their loyalty to the nation. As a Japanese American, it’s a story I know very well.
As we remind ourselves of our professional values, let us do all that we can to reaffirm our welcome to students and colleagues who may be feeling particularly vulnerable in the wake of the tragedy in Boston.
I know that many faculty and administrators join me in this sincere call for awareness and human consideration.
Image: Courtesy of thebudman623 via Flickr. taken April 18, 2013. (Note: Detail on front page is from another photo in the series.)