The notion some Americans have on refugees, as I’ve personally experienced, is that “Oh, refugees are just people who have fled their lands because of war or something like that, and now, they’re here taking up our space and jobs.”
There are many things that agitate me about this notion, but I would just like to say one thing to Americans with this frame of mind: “We refugees are just people who want FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY like YOU.”
As a person who comes from a refugee family, it’s saddening to know that others in my community don’t value my presence, and they fail to understand my background. My family is labeled as automatically “poor and needy” without any evaluation of my family members current occupation or level of education.
Labeling, or stereotyping, in other words, is a phenomenon that is prominent in America culture and must be reversed. I find that a significant amount of people, whom I’m very familiar with, don’t understand a thing about refugees besides the preconceived notions that already exist in American society.
Personally, I’m proud to tell anyone that I love being a refugee because I feel that I’m more appreciate of opportunities presented to me than other American teenagers. This may be due to the fact that opportunities such as being able to go to school and having a consistent access to education have been always available to some of most American teens than me.
In my home country, Sudan, schools are scarce in number and are not free, they are mostly privately owned and are not government owned. This stark difference in opportunity background gives me a different view of life, and how I see others. I’m not just here in America “to take people’s jobs” or to be “welfare-dependent.” I’m here because my mother wanted a better future for my siblings and me.
I know some people may say that my viewpoint on refugees is one-sided because I’m a refugee and thus, I’m confined to only my family’s story, but I have met with and worked with many other refugees from all over the world. And there is one thing that I find to hold true for all refugees: we just want a better life than the ones we have before.
For example, I once worked with Catholic Relief Services in aiding a refugee family from Cambodia. I never knew really anything about that region of the world, but once I met the members of this family, I understood why they also left their life behind. They were just in search of a safe-haven and a better life.
They are just like my family and many other refugee families in the sense that they want FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITIES.
Photo by Michael Fleshman