Column: Standing With Our Whole Community

I recently had the honor of emceeing Our Shared Table, the 12th Annual Thanksgiving Luncheon of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition.  I was pleased to welcome hundreds of immigrants, refugees, and advocates to the Massachusetts State House.

I was inspired by the stories that were shared, including one young man who came to Boston from war-torn Somalia as a child, became a champion runner for the U.S. Track & Field team, and now teaches social studies at a Boston high school.

Sadly, many immigrants and members of other vulnerable populations are feeling anxious and scared right now.  The hateful rhetoric from the presidential campaign has spilled over into our communities, and we are seeing an alarming increase in acts of racial and ethnic harassment.

Let me be very clear.  There is no room for hate, bigotry, or intolerance of any kind in our communities.  We should treat one another with respect and dignity, regardless of our race, religion, ethnicity, gender, immigrant status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  I am proud to represent one of the most diverse regions of the Commonwealth.  I believe these many areas of diversity are a source of great strength and cultural and economic vigor.

Some of you may know that I too am an immigrant. My family was fortunate enough to be able to leave South Africa when it was under the racist and oppressive apartheid system and to come to America in 1980.  One of my proudest childhood memories is when I became a naturalized citizen at age 18.

The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty features Emma Lazarus’ famous words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  We must do everything we can to ensure that these words continue to define who we are, as a Commonwealth and a nation.  We must not succumb to fear or hatred for our neighbor.

If you are a witness or victim to a bias-motivated threat, harassment, or act of violence, please contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s hotline at 1-800-994-3228 or your local police department to report the incident.

We will stand together!